This is how television shows misrepresent the realities of abortion — and why we must tell more realistic stories
Reproductive rights are under attack like never before, and many of us are concerned that our right to choose will be taken away entirely. But, even with Roe v. Wade in place, many women face major obstacles when they seek safe, legal abortions. On the small screen, it’s a different story — and television’s misrepresentation of the realities of abortion contributes to society’s overall misunderstanding of what it’s really like to access and pay for the procedure.
Twenty-six states in America have laws in place that “severely” restrict abortion access. In states like Texas, women often have to travel over 300 miles to have the procedure — and many of these women can’t afford to take time off from work and foot the bill for travel expenses.[/subheader]
A new study by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) published in the journal Feminism and Psychology found that TV shows depict abortion as easy to access and fail to portray the roadblocks faced by women in real life.
The study looked at 89 abortion plot lines from between 2005 and 2015 and found that only four of these plot lines depicted a character who couldn’t get an abortion due to restrictive laws or other factors such as cost and location.
For example, Friday Night Lights misrepresented state-mandated waiting periods and The Good Wife failed to depict the issue of parental consent. Mad Men takes place in pre-Roe v. Wade America, but Joan is easily able to find a doctor willing to perform an illegal abortion.
Even when shows do depict realistic barriers, they’re often solved in an unrealistic manner. For example, cost is an issue on Shameless, but the issue is handled with a fundraiser, which fails to represent the stigma surrounding abortion.
Orange is the New Black and Jessica Jones are cited as shows that realistically depict the dangers of restricted abortion access.
Incarcerated characters on both shows take medications designed to induce abortion, which are always dangerous and often ineffective.
In real life, women who can’t access a safe, legal abortion often turn to unsafe methods and try to perform the procedure on their own.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to accurately depict the barriers faced by women who attempt to exercise their right to choose.
Accessibility is already a major problem and, unfortunately, our current political climate means it will likely get worse in the coming years.