How TV shows depicted abortion in 2019

screenshots from TV portrayals of abortion in 2019
The cultural conversation around abortion can reverberate from the exam room to the halls of Congress. Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health’s Abortion Onscreen is a research program aimed at understanding the impact of evolving American film and TV portrayals of abortion.

In 2019, ANSIRH documented 43 abortion depictions on television—more than they’ve seen in any previous year. Many of these plotlines addressed abortion in complex ways, including depicting how abortion restrictions harm people seeking abortions.

At the same time, there was a troubling return to these depictions reinforcing myths and misinformation: the majority of characters obtaining or disclosing abortions this year were white, whereas the majority of people who seek abortions in real life are people of color. Four of this year’s episodes depicted self-managed abortion, yet all of them associated this practice with physical danger and ineffectiveness.

Other trends included an increase in depictions of characters parenting at the time of their abortion (though still at a much lower rate than their real-life counterparts) and more comedies featuring characters obtaining abortions.