We Fact-Checked The CW's Abortion Plots: They Were Spot On

Photo: Courtesy of The CW
Abortion is like no-man’s-land on television. Rarely do pregnant characters go through with the medical procedure. Abortion is usually an ominous, unnamed theme hanging over the heads of expecting women on TV. It’s referenced via a quick shot of a “Pregnant? Explore Your Options” pamphlet, or a passing clinic during a stoic car ride.

When abortion does become an explicit part of a character’s story line, it stands in as the ultimate test of her morality. The decision is drawn out and rips characters to shreds as they struggle with the enormity of their situation. In these cases, both the decision and the procedure are meant to be points of major trauma.

It’s this climate that makes the recent abortion narratives on The CW so refreshing. During Friday's episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Paula decides she doesn't want anything to get in the way of her going to law school, so she chooses to have an abortion. It's that simple. In an episode earlier this month, Xo, Jane’s mom on Jane the Virgin, also decides to have an abortion, and it is acknowledged in a similarly matter-of-fact way. Vox did a great job of highlighting why these story lines were so important in the broader landscape of abortion discourse.

But were these depictions realistic? We decided to look at some of the hard facts about abortion to see how Paula and Xo’s stories match up. Turns out, the CW is dead on.

Slate reports that in 2008, over 60% of women who received an abortion already had at least one child, and this was before the recession, which disproportionately affected women heads of households. While many television shows are interested in the ethical tug-of-war that pregnant characters experience in choosing between having a child and some other life staple, like a career, women in the real world are weighing this decision based on how it will affect their child(ren) that already exist. Paula is already going to have to balance motherhood with law school, and a newborn would drastically stretch the time she has to commit to her studies and her children. Xo remembers the sacrifices she had to make raising Jane, which heavily influences her decision to abort.

A 2014 Guttmacher survey showed that roughly 60% of all abortion patients that year were in their 20s. Another 25% were in their 30s, like Paula. At 41, Jane’s mother falls outside these demographics. But most importantly, The CW intentionally moved us away from the scared-teenager abortion trope that is so pervasive on TV.

As for the no-big-deal attitude that the network has been assuming toward the controversial subject? Time cites a study that showed 95% of women who get abortions do not regret their decision. So while it’s certainly one of many big choices that people have to make in their lifetimes, like buying a house or selecting a school for their kids, it doesn’t necessarily need to be blown out of proportion for the purpose of creating TV drama. And we can thank The CW for keeping it cool.
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