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Research-based considerations for abortion storytelling on TV and film

With increased interest among Hollywood writers and creators in including authentic abortion stories into their TV shows and movies, New America’s Better Life Lab and the Abortion Onscreen research team created a new resource that provides statistics and updated research context for more accurate and more empathetic storytelling.

This means creating onscreen narratives that illustrate realities, such as:

The lack of paid family and medical leave for most workers, and even paid sick time for lower-wage workers, and how that impacts pregnancy decision-making and family caregiving responsibilities.
In states across the country, child care is expensive and difficult to find.
Workplace schedules for many workers are inflexible, making it challenging to balance work and caregiving responsibilities.
Wages—especially for some women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and disabled people—are low, which makes raising a family and supporting a household difficult.

All of these factors contribute to pregnancy decision-making and abortion seeking, yet we rarely see them depicted onscreen.


Incorporating work-family considerations into pregnancy and abortion storylines will help make characters and their stories more relatable. This type of story treatment also situates abortion in the full context of people’s lives. Shows like P-Valley and Grey’s Anatomy and movies like Unpregnant and Never Rarely Sometimes Always exemplify the ways that storytellers have incorporated the workplace, financial, and care considerations listed above.

The researchers write:

“Integrating pregnancy and abortion stories onscreen into characters’ lives and backstories, in casual conversations as well as multiple episodes and story arcs, can help normalize abortion; open up honest discussions about health, work, family, and parenting; and connect viewers with crucial resources.”

The resource sheet, Re-Scripting Depictions of Abortion on Screen, is available on New America.