TV and film help us make sense of the world, especially during an unprecedented crisis like the overturning of Roe v Wade. While news media have reported on this drastic shift in the U.S. abortion access landscape, this year’s Abortion Onscreen report documents how entertainment content creators are responding to and reckoning with this new reality in their own storytelling.
Abortion Onscreen is a research program aimed at investigating stories of abortion on film and television and their effect on the broader social understanding of abortion. Researchers watch each television plotline 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, we documented more plotlines than ever before portraying contemporary obstacles to abortion care and the overwhelmingly negative impact they have on patients, including long distance drives to abortion clinics, gestational limits, and even the first ever depiction of an abortion fund volunteer. The mere portrayal of abortion barriers, however, does not leave these depictions without problematic elements, particularly related to demographic representations of abortion patients.
The researchers write:
“We hope these shows and others continue to build on these depictions by giving main characters abortion plotlines instead of only guest actors and working to reflect the reality of abortion patients in the U.S.”