In the 1987 film Dirty Dancing, Penny Johnson (Cynthia Rhodes) obtains an illegal abortion. The abortion is treated as scandalous when Baby (Jennifer Grey) enlists her father (Jerry Orbach) to help a suffering Penny. (She went to a back alley abortionist, which had some adverse effects.) As this plot line unfolds, none of the characters in the movie ever utter the word "abortion."
Since then, abortion on screen has become much less taboo. As per a new report released by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), 22 television shows — one of which, the Dirty Dancing remake, is actually a TV special — featured a storyline about abortion in 2017. This is a higher number than there were in 2016, but the report notes that a smaller percentages of these storylines allowed the character to obtain an abortion.
The report also notes that 2017 television tended towards dystopia, which meant that the abortion storylines took on horrific implications. But, comedies also took on abortion, proving that even the most fraught topic can be handled with levity. Ahead, see how each genre handled abortion in 2017.
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