How Television Falsely Depicts Abortion

By: Jillian James

Kerry Washington in an episode on Scandal, one of the few shows that have portrayed an abortion in an honest and realistic manner.


When it comes to the media’s depiction of abortion, there is usually more fiction on the screen than fact. The University of California San Francisco ANSIRH program’s Abortion OnScreen project studied how abortion was portrayed in a wide variety of television shows. According to the study, “42.5 percent of plot lines included a complication, intervention, or major health consequence” as a result of an abortion.


That is huge contrast to the actual outcome data from abortion procedures. Only 2.1% of all abortions have any sort of complication, and they are usually minor. In reality, an abortion is an incredibly safe medical procedure that carries very small risk.


According to the study, TV makes having an abortion seem like a high-stakes operation. Characters who receive abortions on TV are frequently depicted as having serious, life-altering complications from the procedure, including “infertility, depression, and death.” According to the study, 5% of the characters in the television samples studies died from having an abortion. That number is astronomically high and dangerously incorrect.


People internalize what they see on television, and television has the ability to shape public views and public policy. With women’s rights and reproductive access constantly being attacked by government officials, it is crucial that people have a proper understanding of abortion and its level of safety. Portraying abortion in such a negative light can falsely lead the public to form biases again abortion that are not based on fact, and using abortion to add drama to a television show is blatantly misleading the public.


An abortion is not a dangerous decision. Its time for the media to stop portraying it that way.