This year, the Abortion Onscreen report documented fewer abortion plotlines on television than in 2019, but a remarkable increase in the number of movies with abortion plotlines. However, these depictions still do not portray the reality of abortion access, particularly when it comes to demographics and barriers to access: the vast majority of this year’s film and television characters obtaining abortions are white, and a majority of them were also not parenting at the time of their abortions. The majority of television characters faced no obstacles in obtaining an abortion, and only one-third of movie characters faced any barrier at all.
Abortion Onscreen is a research program aimed at investigating stories of abortion in film and television and their effect on the broader social understanding of abortion. Researchers watch each television plotline or movie and analyze each for abortion safety, the demographics of characters who seek abortions, type of abortion, reasons for obtaining abortions, and how difficult or easy the procedure is to access—comparing these trends to prior years’ depictions.
This year’s increase in white and non-parenting characters represents a reversal of trends from 2019, which documented an increase in both numbers of characters of color and characters who are parenting when seeking abortion. This pattern is also substantially different from recently published research documenting increased portrayals of characters of color obtaining abortions, even if the majority of these characters are still white. The findings suggest that the increased diversity observed last year will not continue without sustained effort.
“[Vida has] the first ever plotline to include a queer Latina character obtaining an abortion, and, importantly, receiving support from her ex-girlfriend.”