Why These Are The Best (& Worst) Portrayals Of Abortion On TV In 2016

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
In this age of #PeakTV, there's still one thing television still largely ignores it when reflecting our world on the silver screen.

With a few notable exceptions, abortion often appears as an unnamed omen, threatening to suck the good morality out of the female character that dares to consider it. In other cases, a character's abortion is typically used as tragic plot device.

2016 was a relatively good year for abortion on television. There were multiple depictions of women deciding to end their pregnancies without starting a nuclear war, destroying all that they hold dear, or being generally horrible people. It’s been nice.

But on the dawn of a new administration vocally committed to hindering real people’s access to abortion, it's even more important for these stories to be told. In her new short film Lucia, Before and After, part of Refinery29's Shatterbox Anthology film series, director Anu Valia brings the experiences of a woman forced to wait 24 hours (after driving 200 miles to Texas) for her abortion procedure. It’s a visually engaging experience that gets to the nitty gritty of abortion under widespread TRAP laws.

While this isn’t the celebratory message present in some of last year’s TV abortion narratives, it accurately depicts the barriers to abortion that many people face under our nation’s current laws. If TV really wants to “get it right," showrunners should recognize that visibility for people who exercise their right to choose is no longer enough. Let’s be honest about who is and isn’t able to act on that choice and why.

But until then, let’s note some of the great— and not so great— portrayals of abortion on TV last year.
Just 7% of 2016's top films were directed by women. Refinery29 wants to change this by giving 12 female directors a chance to claim their power. Our message to Hollywood? You can't win without women. Watch new films every month on Refinery29.com/Shatterbox and Comcast Watchable.

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