From 'Scandal' to 'Shrill:' Eight Times TV Tried to 'Normalize' Abortion

March 29th, 2019 9:10 AM

Earlier in March, Shrill premiered on Hulu, which had main character Annie feeling “really, really good” and “very fucking powerful” after having an abortion in the Pilot episode. One of the show’s writers, Lindy West, who co-created #ShoutYourAbortion, described the abortion scene as “almost boring television” in a video interview with Jezebel, and that she was proud of that.

There wasn’t much to the brief abortion scene, which is why it’s so troubling. To West and her ilk, “abortion is super common and super normal and people are having them all the time and most of them do take one minute.” She continued with a pro-abortion monologue.


But if you’re like Annie, or you’re like me, having a first trimester abortion, because you have an unplanned pregnancy and you don’t want to be pregnant, that’s a valid experience, too. And it’s not one we see on TV.

We especially don’t see anyone have an abortion and be happy about it and say that it made their life better. And I think that the more we normalize abortion, especially right now, the better.

It’s a really, really terrifying time and a lot of people are going to die. I mean, forget even talking about Roe and legality, they’re rolling back access right now… by never telling these stories honestly in the media, especially in television, it creates this vacuum that anti-choicers get to fill and they get to define what abortion is and they get to tell people that it hurts, and that it’s scary, and it’s traumatic, and it’s evil.

When in reality, if you to to an abortion clinic, you’re taken care of by really, really brave, caring people who don’t have to do this work and get murdered for it, and harassed every single day, and they’re there to take care of pregnant people and make sure that they get to exercise their constitutional right. It’s actually like such a beautiful community of people. I can’t even process how happy I am that we got to put that on screen. Um, I’m super, super proud.

No, we shouldn't normalize the fact that thousands of babies are killed from abortion each day, no matter how long the abortion procedure--which sucks the child out with a powerful vacuum--takes. Women are not dying because they do not have access to abortion, especially in the United States, which has some of the most permissive abortion laws in the world

It’s not merely “anti-choicers” who describe abortion as something that “hurts” or is “scary” or “traumatic” or “evil.” Post-abortive women share the regret they themselves felt after their abortions, though for many women these effects were not necessarily felt right away. Those women who initially feel "really, really good" or "very fucking powerful" and want to partake in #ShoutYourAbortion may not feel that way in a few months or years.

Violence against abortion workers is not pro-life and is unacceptable. West is correct that abortion workers “don’t have to do this work,” but the success of former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson’s And Then There Were None organization that helps abortion staff transition out of the industry should give people pause.

For all of West’s carrying on about an abortion experience being “not one we see on TV,” one would think Shrill was the first of its kind to ever portray abortion in such a way. There are other shows, some of which premiered years prior, which addressed abortion in a similar way, including some highlighted by Jezebel. If West thinks that “you don’t see abortion presented on television in any kind of a realistic way,” she’s been missing out. Here are some recent examples of TV series with scenes that showed abortion in a nonchalant or positive way, starting with Shrill itself.




Netflix’s GLOW, set in the 1980's, also normalizes abortion, and similarly received accolades from pro-abortion media outlets and abortion giant Planned Parenthood. In the 8th episode of the first season, Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie) discovers she’s pregnant after sleeping with her best friend’s husband. She decides to have an abortion, answering when asked “this is what you want,” that “it’s not the right time. Not the right baby.” Brie later stood by the show’s abortion message.




Jezebel similarly points to ABC's Scandal, describing the abortion of main character Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) as “a nervy move.” And while character is having her abortion, “Silent Night,” plays. Alexa Moutevelis for NewsBusters aptly called the scene "truly vile [and] stomach-churning," in contrast to Jezebel’s lauding it without a second thought.




Although Girls has thankfully been off the air for a few years now, it, too, normalized abortion. Jezebel highlighted Girls’ February 22 episode “Close-Up” as “a super chill abortion episode.” In it, Mimi-Rose (Gillian Jacobs) purposefully doesn’t tell her boyfriend Adam (Adam Driver) she got an abortion until she has already done so because “I didn’t want to talk about it beforehand; I just wanted to do it.”

When she does tell him, it’s to let him know that she “can’t go for a run” because she aborted his child the day before. She also “can’t take a bath or use a tampon or have intercourse for like a week,” which is apparently funny. When Adam dares to ask “isn't this a decision that people typically make together,” Mimi-Rose assumes he wanted to keep the child and calls it “kind of absurd.” So Adam had no say in the abortion, as admitted by Mimi-Rose who “just waited to share information until it was too late for [him] to chime in.” And yet Jezebel sees this as something to applaud.


BoJack Horseman

The concept of the animated Netflix series BoJack Horseman is already outlandish, with the titular character being a '90s sitcom horse. But the episode of “Brrap Brrap Pew Pew” really goes there with an episode devoted to abortion. Due to a mis-Tweet, fans of the pop star dolphin Sextina Aquafina believe she is having an abortion, and she is hailed as “brave” by celebrities and the media. Sextina even creates a new hit song, “Get Dat Fetus, Kill Dat Fetus,” becoming the “voice of choice.” When human character Diane actually does have an abortion, she’s told that “you don't need to explain anything to anyone.” Again, this is something Jezebel hails as “a complex new side to onscreen abortion narratives.”



Degrassi: Next Class

One episode which fits in rather nicely with #ShoutYourAbortion, is Degrassi: Next Class’ “#IRegretNothing.” Lola Pacini (Amanda Arcuri) quickly decides on abortion, since she’s “not ready to be a mom.” Lola is even told by a friend that “a lot of women have abortions and feel no shame,” inspiring her to make a video of how she’s not ashamed. There's also a line about how apparently “the world makes everybody too scared to talk about it.” After the video, Lola and her friends go celebrate with ice cream. When Lola asks if she’s the first 16-year old the abortionist has performed an abortion on, he answers with “you’re not the first today,” emphasis added.

Series co-creator Linda Schuyler talked about how “it’s very important to signal to” young women “that it is their body, it is their choice,” and how episode writer Sarah Glinski was also “really big on wanting to show that there's no shame in what Lola did, and we wanted to see Lola own it. I think that's very positive for young girls." Arcuri said she was “happy that the writers gave me this opportunity to portray it and help young girls."



Sex Education

In the third episode of Netflix's Sex Education, Maeve (Emma Mackey) finds herself at the abortion clinic, which includes questions from a nurse there, with answers to if she's considered adoption like " I don’t think anyone would want a pregnant 17 year old. I don’t want to do adoption, no." While Maeve has her abortion, 'Asleep' by the Smiths plays. Except the soon to be aborted child isn't exactly going to sleep. A woman there who has had three abortions and three children tells Maeve, "Don’t worry, love. I got three kids and I feel way more guilty about the ones that I had than the ones I chose not to. It’s better not being a mum at all than being a bad one." Similarly to Degrassi: Next Class celebrating abortion with ice cream, Sex Education does so with a bouquet from Otis (Asa Butterfield). Maeve accepts noting, "Nothing says Happy Abortion like a bouquet."




Perhaps there’s no show more crassly carefree about an abortion procedure than TNT’s Claws’ “Cracker Casserole” episode. The aborted baby’s father, Dean Simms (Harold Perrineau), repeats pro-abortion talking points like “women have the right to choose.” When he tells pro-life protesters at the abortion facility where he takes Virginia (Karrueche Tran) to have her abortion, that the two have decided to get married, the protesters think that means they’ve chosen life for their child. Nope. “We still D&C'd that shit, bitch!,” Virginia proclaims.



What happened? Pro-choicers used to believe in abortion being “safe, legal, and rare” and recognize, as they did on another Hulu show, Casual, that “nobody wants to have an abortion, it's physical and psychological agony.” Women have abortions because something they did not want to happen - getting pregnant - happened to them.

Even West acknowledges that in a way when she's talking about women who have “a first trimester abortion, because you have an unplanned pregnancy and you don’t want to be pregnant.” So how does one go from there to #ShoutYourAbortion? Twisted, pro-abortion logic pervading our television.