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Friday, November 13, 2009

Abortion on Television

I was watching - don't ask me why, it's unexplainable - the ABC drama Private Practice the other day. Here's a piece of the recap

{My comments in brackets.]
Violet [the therapist] has trouble bonding with her baby boy when feelings from her [brutal, gratuitously shown] attack [removing her baby from her womb] resurface at a rape counseling session [for a couple]. She [Violet] cannot even look at him [her baby]. She is reminder of her attack every time she looks at him. The rape victim wants to keep her child [from her rape] but her husband does not. Violet tells her how she feels about her baby every time she looks at him. The patient decides to abort the baby.

Ah...after she realizes she's inflicted her own values onto her patient, Violet calls the couple in again, real discussion takes place, as the husband asks his wife what she really wants to do. While it's not spelled out, it seems pretty clear that the abortion will not happen.

After I watched this, I was reminded of a blogpost a few months ago by Greg Burgas about the now-canceled ABC soapy drama Dirty Sexy Money, where the heiress, Karen Darling, finally hooks up with her childhood sweetheart, but finds herself pregnant by her former finance. She goes to the abortion clinic with her mother, but ends deciding to keep the baby.

It seems that others besides Greg have been asking this question for a while: does anyone actually HAVE an abortion on television anymore? Between this 2004 New York Times piece and this 2005 Village Voice piece, it seems nobody actually gets an abortion on American TV, even if initially think they will. The only exceptions I could find since Maude in the early 1970s were Everwood and Six feet Under, though there may have been some on the daytime or nighttime soap operas.

More likely is what happened on Sex in the City where Carrie plans to accompany Miranda to her abortion, but Miranda ultimately bails. Now some TV characters may have had abortions in the past (Carrie on SITC, Violet on Private Practice), but it was a long time ago. No wonder that New York Times article is titled "Television's Most Persistent Taboo."

Please note I'm making an observation about a medium's treatment of a legal procedure. It's not that I thought any of the specific characters SHOULD have had abortions - I'm not the TV writer - only that the collective lack of them doesn't ring true.


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