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Abortion Onscreen in 2023

Of this year’s 49 abortion plotlines, a quarter depicted barriers to abortion access, fewer than in 2022 but still more than in years prior. One plotline showed the first in-depth portrayal of self-managed abortion, including the medical safety and legal risk involved, and more plotlines than ever before depicted medication abortion.

Key Findings

There were 49 abortion plotlines on television this year. Half (51%) included a character who obtained an abortion or disclosed a past abortion. A quarter featured a character considering an abortion and a quarter featured a discussion of abortion more broadly.
Logistical, financial, and legal barriers to abortion access were portrayed in about a quarter (23%) of plotlines. This is fewer than in 2022, which saw one-third of all abortion plotlines on TV portraying barriers to access.
The demographic reality of who gets abortions continues to be misrepresented on screen, with middle class, wealthy, notably younger, and childfree white women making up the majority of characters who get abortions.
This year brought more representation of medication abortion, with six plotlines.


This year, television viewers tuned in for a range of relevant abortion storyline depictions, including the first in-depth plotline about self-managed abortion. Other television shows reverted to a troubling trope seen in the early 1990’s and 2000’s: the averted abortion, which stigmatizes abortion by avoidance instead of providing more depth and nuance to depictions of miscarriage or pregnancy ambivalence. With the writers’ and actors’ union strikes now over, researchers hope that content creators will continue to expand on abortion storylines with more accurate context, like work-family considerations and pregnancy decision-making factors.

The researchers write:

“We hope that studios will continue to expand the genres in which we see abortion storylines to include primetime sitcoms, science fiction, historical romance, and more.”

For more, read the report Abortion Onscreen in 2023 from our Abortion Onscreen project.

Additional Resources