TV and Film's Most Accurate Depictions of Abortions

Accurate media representation of abortions is a direct protest of the recent restrictive abortion bans that shame women for exercising the right to choose.

The Mary Sue

Twitter has been alive with reactions to states' recent efforts to challenge Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court.

The 1973 case protecting a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy within the first trimester if she chooses to has been challenged by seven states so far this year. Some bills have passed that narrow the window of time the procedure is lawful while others criminalize abortion altogether, even in cases of rape or incest. The public response online, from celebrities sharing their own abortion stories to trending hashtags that #AbortionIsAWomansRight, show that media is still riding the wave of “woke culture" that first entered the mainstream in 2016.

But how impactful on popular opinion can media be? Dr. Anamik Saha at the University of London says, “There are millennials now who are really invested in popular culture, who understand how issues of representation in the media are a matter of social justice." This week's abortion bans in Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri have spotlighted a woman's right to choose on social media. But in mainstream film and TV, the issue has been portrayed with slants both for better and for worse, depending on public sentiment throughout the years. For instance, in 2014, researchers Katrina Kimport and Gretchen Sisson analyzed 385 plotlines that dealt with abortions in film and TV, concluding that dramatized portrayals depict the procedure as more lethal than actual statistics suggest. Additionally, they found that most TV characters who had abortions were white and middle-class, which belied the reality that women of color are inordinately affected by abortions.

From a woman feeling empowered by her abortion in Hulu's Shrill to strong female characters projecting casual, unashamed attitudes about the procedure, films and TV shows help to destigmatize one of America's most taboo topics by depicting it on screen.

Shonda Rhimes' Scandal

In 2005, ABC network pressured Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes to change a storyline depicting Cristina Yang having an abortion in season 1. Rhimes, who was just beginning her illustrious career as a TV mogul, obliged. She later reflected, "They were just explaining to me how rarely it had been done, how controversial it was going to be, how many warnings they would have to put on the episode."

But Rhimes hasn't shied away from the topic since. Grey's Cristina Yang did choose to terminate a pregnancy in season seven, and on the legal drama Scandal, Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington) was one of TV's strongest female leads when she opted to have an abortion. The silent, one-minute scene reflected the episode's emphasis on healthcare and the necessity of protecting reproductive rights. Rhimes told TIME, "It's a polarizing issue obviously… Because it is such a hot button issue, because people are debating it, it should be discussed. And I'm not sure why it's not being discussed."

popdust scandal abortion ABC

Obvious Child

“I'm having your abortion. Do you wanna share a dessert?" Jenny Slate stars as Donna, a young comic who discovers she's pregnant after a drunken one-night stand. She's plagued by ironies, from Planned Parenthood only having available appointments on her mother's birthday and Valentine's Day to repeatedly crossing paths with Max, her one-night stand. Even worse is the fact that she actually likes him. Gillian Robespierre directed and wrote the indie comedy with frank honesty and unsentimental realism.

Rather than centering the abortion as the focus of the film, it's one realistic experience that speaks to Donna's primary conflict as an immature young adult struggling with life's major transitions. The acclaimed film stands out for its casual yet genuine depiction of abortion, contrasting with media's traditional treatment of the topic. For instance, this year's faith-based, anti-abortion film Unplanned follows the pattern of defining the female character's identity by her abortion experience, focusing her entire character arc on her emotional turmoil before and after the procedure. Instead, Obvious Child features Donna approaching the topic with frank humor that disarms critics by acknowledging the full realities of unplanned pregnancies with earnest. Also, it's funny as hell. Donna's friend Nellie (Gaby Hoffmann) acknowledges Donna's morning sickness by baldly saying, “You're dizzy because you played Russian Roulette with your vagina."

Obvious Child | Official Trailer HD | A24


Based on writer Lindy West's 2016 book of the same name, Hulu's series depicts its main character, Annie (played by Saturday Night Live's Aidy Bryant), having an abortion in its pilot episode. The show, co-created and written by West, spends about two-minutes depicting the procedure. It's a frank, no-frills portrayal that's meant to reflect West's sentiment in her book that women should be able to openly share their abortion experiences without shame. In 2015, West even co-founded the #ShoutYourAbortion campaign designed to de-stigmatize the topic.

West said that the writers took care that the scene was “not sensationalized at all." She added, “This is a pivotal moment for [Annie] in her life but not in the way that abortion is usually treated as a pivotal moment. This isn't an agonizing decision for her. It's a complicated decision because her life is complicated and her relationship was complicated." In fact, the character draws a sense of empowerment and self-affirmation from the experience, since “it's maybe the first time that Annie sets a boundary for herself and thinks about what she wants and makes a choice," according to West.

Shrill: Trailer (Official) • A Hulu Original

Such casual depictions of women terminating pregnancies are progressive steps towards destigmatizing the issue. Sociologist Gretchen Sisson told Washington Post that traditional plot lines featuring abortions focus on a woman agonizing over the decision and sometimes changing her mind at the last minute, suggesting a moral transformation that shamed real-life women who choose to go through with the procedure. These days, “We don't really see that as much anymore," said Sisson. “A lot of times when a character gets an abortion, the story is not as much about the decision-making process—it's either the process of obtaining the abortion or what it means for their relationships and their career goals." With celebrities like Milla Jovovich, Busy Philipps, and Jameela Jamil, opening up about having abortions when they were younger, opening a public discussion about abortions through media representation is a direct protest of the restrictive abortion bans that shame women for exercising the right to choose.

Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.

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China Detains Two ​Canadian Citizens

The government's charges against a Canadian ex-diplomat are thought to be retaliation for Canada's arrest of a high-profile Chinese executive.

Toronto Star

Updated Story:

Tensions in the U.S.-China trade war intensified once again this week when Chinese authorities confirmed they'd arrested a second Canadian citizen, Michael Spavor, for "endangering national security." Spavor's arrest follows a former Canadian diplomat's detainment under the same suspicion. Both sets of charges are thought to be reprisals for the highly-publicized arrest and possible extradition of a powerful Chinese executive, Meng Wanzhou, for violating U.S. sanctions while in Vancouver.

On Wednesday, Canada's foreign minster, Chrystia Freeland, confirmed that Spavor went missing earlier this week when he was due to travel between his home in Dandong, a Chinese city bordering North Korea, and Seoul, South Korea. Chinese authorities soon reported that Spavor was arrested the same evening that a former Canadian diplomat, Michael Kovrig, was arrested. Freeland expressed concern for both men, but the political charge of detaining an ex-diplomat was clear: "The fact that [Kovrig] is an employee of my department means a lot of us know him and that adds another layer of concern," she said. "We care and we work and fight hard for every Canadian detained abroad."

Yet Spavor's arrest brings its own bizarre twist to the political tensions between China, Canada, and the U.S. As the founder of Paektu Cultural Exchange, an organization promoting tourism and investment in North Korea, Spavor is notable for facilitating Dennis Rodman's personal visits with Kim Jong-un. He's fluent in Korean (with a North Korean accent), has lived in Pyongyang, and is a long-time acquaintance of Kim's. In 2017, he spoke to Reuters about introducing Rodman to Kim: "That was the most amazing experience I've had in my life," he said. "We hung out for three days."


While President Trump has made the base-less pronouncement that he would use Meng's arrest as leverage to negotiate a new trade deal with China, Freeland warns, "Our extradition partners should not seek to politicize the extradition process or use it for ends other than the pursuit of justice."


A former Canadian diplomat is being detained in China in rumored retaliation for Canada's arrest of a high-ranking Chinese executive.

Michael Kovrig is a former diplomat who's worked for the United Nations and the Canadian foreign service as vice consul at the embassy in Beijing. He's been working in Beijing as an advisor for the International Crisis Group, covering East China for the ICG's CrisisWatch, which helps "decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises."

As such, Kovrig hasn't brought good publicity to the Chinese Communist Party, highlighting reports of violence and possible human rights violations in areas such as Xinjiang, where millions of Muslim Uighurs have been forcibly detained by the government. In China, state-run media reported that Kovrig was being held and investigated for "engaging in activities that endanger China's national security," a thinly veiled allusion to suspected espionage.

The president and chief executive of ICG, Robert Malley, contested the claim: "I am not willing to speculate as to the reason why the Chinese authorities chose to do what they did. I am willing to state categorically what is not the reason for Michael's detention. He did not engage in illegal activities. He was not endangering Chinese national security." He added, "He was doing what all Crisis Group analysts do: objective and impartial research and policy recommendations to end deadly conflict."

It's widely believed that the Chinese government arrested Kovrig in retaliation for the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co. (and also the daughter of the powerful company's founder). She was arrested by Canadian authorities in early December on the charge that she helped Huawei violate U.S. sanctions by misleading banks about her company's business in Iran. Officials in Beijing publicly demanded that Meng be released, threatening there would be "severe consequences" for Canada otherwise.

Meng's arrest reignited tensions over the trade battle between the U.S. and China. With Meng still detained in Canada and possibly facing extradition to the U.S., the Chinese government conveniently found charges to bring against a well-known Canadian citizen with diplomatic ties. A former Canadian ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, has publicly declared, "In China there are no coincidences. In this case it is clear the Chinese government wants to put maximum pressure on the Canadian government."

Meng WanzhouHuawei Central

Saint-Jacques doesn't doubt that the arrest is a government ploy to exchange the release of Kovrig for Meng, adding, "When things happen and they want to send you a message, they will send you a message."

If so, the machinations are too transparent to seem beneficial in the long run. Jude Blanchette, China analyst at U.S. advisory firm Crumpton Group and long-time acquaintance of Kovrig, said, "If Michael's detention was intended to send a message to the Canadian government, it has been a serious political miscalculation." The analyst warned, "The message it sends to businesses around the world is that they need to think twice about sending executives to China."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau only commented that the case is being taken "very seriously" while negotiations are still underway.

Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.

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Amal Clooney will let you join her for a power lunch, at a modest price of just $2,200! In Clooney dollars, this is equal to a small designer handbag. The money will get you a meet-and-greet, and a photo with Amal herself!

This exciting opportunity will take place in October, when Amal is speaking on workplace equality at the Women World Changers Summit in Australia.

Tickets for the conference are $895, but who among us would hesitate to shell out for the VIP meet-Amal package at only $2,200?

Really, the price is minuscule compared to the cost of dinner with Amal and George at their Hillary Clinton fundraising bash. Tickets for that event went for $44,000, but one special couple paid $353,000 to sit with the Clooneys.

Before marrying George Clooney in 2014, Amal was just a junior lawyer with a penchant for short skirts and high-profile human rights cases. While once she was happy to advise dictators and to wear the same outfit more than once, Amal has been elevated by her marriage to celebrity status.

She has been busy flying around giving talks and press conferences, and appearing beside George at red carpet events.

Earlier this week, People reported that Amal doesn't work with a stylist, but rather hand picks every outfit herself. This fiction was passed on by William Banks-Blaney, founder of WilliamVintage, an upscale boutique that has become a favorite of Mrs. Clooney. He confided in an interview:

Amal has impeccable taste and understands fashion perfectly, irrespective of whether the piece is from WilliamVintage or from the contemporary collections.

Amal has been shopping at Williams since 2015, so it looks like her impeccable taste emerged only after marrying. But that happens, right?

In any case, Amal's stylist is John Galliano’s long-time partner, Alexis Roche. But if she wants credit for picking out the over-priced and age-inappropriate frocks and accessories she's been splurging on, so what.

Amal has reinvented herself, which is hard work, and if she's a little caught up in her own PR, let's forgive her.

Now, what's for lunch??


Angelina Jolie will join the renowned London School of Economics as a visiting professor, to teach a new masters course on women in conflict.

According to the LSE, the course is the first of its kind globally and will be run by the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security which was launched last year by Jolie and her famous groupie Britain's former foreign secretary, Lord William Hague.

Hague will also be a visiting professor, the better to spend time with the super qualified Hollywood actress.

Hague and Jolie co-founded a global initiative to tackle sexual violence in conflict zones in 2012. He was so smitten by Angelina's huge brain that he later arranged for her to receive a special honor from the Queen.

While it's nice to have friends in high places, Ms. Jolie clearly earned her professorship the old-fashioned way: By dropping out of school to pursue a modelling career and nurturing a drug habit. Her subsequent marriages to three actors were also invaluable learning experiences, as were her many acting roles.

According to the LSE, the new master’s program will include courses titled Women, Peace and Security, Gender and Militarization, and Gender and Human Rights. Students will conduct research on preventing sexual violence in conflicts and on women, peace and security.

In a prepared statement, Jolie said:

I am very encouraged by the creation of this master’s program. I hope other academic institutions will follow this example, as it is vital that we broaden the discussion on how to advance women’s rights and end impunity for crimes that disproportionately affect women, such as sexual violence in conflict.

It's not often that a celebrity can pose so successfully both on the red carpet and in international refugee camps, but Angie is a lifelong rule-breaker, as we know so well.

She humbly shared her aspirations for the new job.:

I am looking forward to teaching and to learning from the students, as well as to sharing my own experiences of working alongside governments and the UN

Let's all wish her well in her new endeavor and hope that the school offers a nutritious lunch program.

Kim Kardashian has been accused by Iran of colluding with Instagram to corrupt Iranian woman, amid a crackdown on women who post glamorous selfies.

The spokesman for the Organized Cyberspace Crimes Unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp spoke on an Iranian news program Sunday night to denounce Kardashian and 'her ilk.'

According to ThinkProgress, Mostafa Alizadeh explained how Kardashian and her ilk 'target young people and women' with the scandalous imagery they share. He suggested that Kardashian is employed by Instagram in some capacity as part of a complex plot to lure Iranian women toward a Western lifestyle and away from the teachings of Islam.

[Note to Kim: Uh oh.]

In his words:

These schemes originate from around the Persian Gulf and England. When you draw the operational graph, you will see that it is a foreign operation. Ms. Kim Kardashian is a popular fashion model so Instagram’s CEO tells her, ‘make this native.’ There is no doubt that financial support is involved as well. We are taking this very seriously.

In a crackdown on un-Islamic dress, Iranian authorities arrested eight individuals involved in Instagram pictures of women without headscarves, as part of the operation which 'targets Iran’s fashion elite for their use of social media.'

Prosecutor Javad Babei made the arrests public on TV, saying the operation was zeroing in on 'threats to morality and the foundation of family'.

According to the BBC, the eight people who were arrested were among 170 identified by investigators as being involved in modeling online. They included 59 photographers and make-up artists, 58 models and 51 fashion salon managers and designers.

Mostafa Alizadeh said, ominously:

Sterilising popular cyberspaces is on our agenda. We carried out this plan in 2013 with Facebook, and now Instagram is the focus.

One of the arrested women, a former model, appeared on TV to renounce her bare-headed photos and lament her 'mistake.' During her interview, she warned other young women to stay out of the industry, saying:

You can be certain that no man would want to marry a model whose fame has come by losing her honor.

How will Kim respond to this serious human rights issue? We know how strongly she feels about sharing her nude body to celebrate her femininity or whatever she keeps celebrating.

Will she stand up for the women of Iran and support their freedom of self-expression? Will she deny her influence? Or will she go into hiding?

Just kidding with that last option!

Kim will go into hiding when Hell freezes, or as they say in the Persian Gulf , "إذا حجت البقرة على قرونها", which means 'when the cow goes on pilgrimage on its horns.'


Amal Clooney spoke out about sex trafficking at a Dallas fundraising luncheon, wearing a pair of $1,395 white pants by Altuzarra.

The busy human-rights lawyer took time out from her pathological shopping and grooming commitments to attend the sold-out annual New Friends New Life event at a Dallas Hilton.

The event raised more than $1 million for the anti-trafficking organization, which offers counseling, housing and other services to 1,400 formerly trafficked teens and women every year.

Ironically, Amal could have contributed a million dollars herself, simply by forgoing a few phone-calls to Saks Fifth Avenue, but then there would be no publicity so scrap that idea.

According to the Dallas Morning news, while 'the conversation occasionally drifted to the topic of Clooney’s husband, actor George Clooney, she remained focused on the fact that 27 million people are enslaved throughout the world.'

Good for her!

Amal discussed international human trafficking, crimes against journalists and how her passion makes her good at her job. She recently spoke at an event in Saudi Arabia, without condemning sharia law, but you can't ALWAYS be defending women's rights when public speaking engagements are offered up. Nobody's perfect, you know.

Anyway, Amal said about the New Friends New Life organization that if nonprofits can make a difference to just one woman, the work is worth it.

She also mentioned Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, for whom Amal once worked as a student clerk.

I hadn't seen her for many years, but we spoke last year about my students talking about where I 'ended up.' I told her, 'Yes, Justice, but your story does end with ... 'And, now I'm on the Supreme Court...'

Oh, what a delightful sense of humor, self-deprecation mixed with frightening ambition and name dropping! Whew.

Can we just skip to where the event is a smashing success, everybody was thrilled by Amal's illustrious presence but probably a bit disappointed by her notable failure to display her arms. I don't know why Mrs. Clooney kept the arms under wrap on this occasion but maybe she just didn't want to show off in front of all those Dallas socialites.

Never fear, Amal acolytes, we have this recent picture of Amal to make it up to you!

Loving the classy boots and how she manages to carry that heavy Maison Margiela handbag without breaking any bones!