Roe v. Wade affirmed a woman's legal right to an abortion in 1973, but today, restrictions and regulations have made many this "right" a lot more difficult to exercise. While the current POTUS has taken an anti-abortion stance — even going so far as to state there should be "some form of punishment" for women who have the procedure — it's more than just his view that is affecting women's right to choose. From state legislation to the closing of women's health clinics, it is becoming increasingly difficult for women to receive abortion access — at least, in the real world. According to a new study, it's a lot easier to get an abortion on TV than in real life. In other words, TV paints an unrealistic portrayal of just how accessible abortion is for the average woman.
Glamour first reported on the study, which was published in the journal Feminism & Psychology. The study analyzed 89 abortion plot lines from 2005 to 2015, and noted that women are rarely faced with difficulties in obtaining the procedure. While the characters may face emotional conflicts, most of the storylines don't go into the legal issues surrounding abortion or show the characters having to jump through hoops in order to exercise their right.
Many people assume that Roe v. Wade was the end of the abortion debate, but restrictions on access can put women — especially low-income women — in a dire situation. In the real world, women sometimes have to drive many miles (or even across state lines) to the nearest clinic, listen to false facts about abortion, or confront angry, sometimes violent protesters. Abortion may be safe and legal, but it's not always easy.
Television tends to focus on its characters making the choice to have an abortion — perhaps because that's where emotional conflict often stems from. While it's great that television is more open than ever about showing abortion as an option for women, it's also important that it depicts it accurately. Women need to know that they have options, but also what difficulties they can expect in going through with them.
While I would hate for TV to portray the need for an abortion as some tragic thing, TV can step up its game by showing the challenges women sometimes face in taking this step. Some TV shows are already there: BoJack Horseman may be an animated comedy about a talking horse, but it also roasted terrible abortion regulations. In one scene, Diane (Alison Brie) is forced to look at videos of cute puppies (her husband is a dog, just go with it) before undergoing her abortion, "just in case" she wants to change her mind. That's wrong, and gross, but, sadly, a reality for many women.
TV can do right by women by showing the world the BS they sometimes face in exercising the right to their own body. It's an uncomfortable mirror to our reality, but one that people need to see in a time when a woman's right to choose is under attack.