So this morning on my twitter feed there was a tweet by Donald Clarke with a link to his latest piece on the Irish Times Entitled Xena is gay: what next, Marriage?
The piece looks at how in the medium of TV gay* presentation has changed and be come more normalized and frequent but that women having abortion is not part of the stories show and how
Visibility matters. More than anything else, everyday encounters with gay people changed society’s attitudes to the marriage debate. When, as has happened recently, women calmly – without pretending to shame – discuss their own abortions in the media, chinks open up in the information cordon that has grown up around this fraught issue.
The people who commission TV programmes and commercial movies also need to show some guts. Viewers are not so fragile as advertisers and programmers pretend. They can be trusted with the real world.
The thing is, abortion has been part of the stories told via the medium of TV.
1989 the British sitcom Birds of a Feather, in its first season aired the episode Women’s Troubles, which dealt with Trush and an unexpected pregnancy, in which one of the two leads, Sharon chooses to have an abortion. It shows the two sisters supporting each other, despite them being in very different places in their lives when it comes to continuing a pregnancy.
Also in 1989 Degrassi High aired, a show about going to High School in Canada, by episode 2 of it’s opening season it had a student dealing with an unexpected pregnancy and what decision to make. Heather talks it out with her twin sister, who doesn’t agree with her choice but end the end supports and accompanies her to the clinic.
The Degrassi franchise was rebooted and Degrassi: The Next Generation also has had an abortion episode. The story was spit into two parts and aired at the start of 2004. Accidents will happen follows Manny’s process of choosing what to do, talking to her friend, her boyfriend and getting the support of her mother who bring her to the clinic.
Of course Sex and the City dealt with abortion, the episode Couda, woulda, shoulda aired in 2001 and deals with a range of the reproductive stories of the 4 ladies. Miranda is dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, Charlotte struggling with possible infertility and both Carrie and Miranda share their abortion stories.
2001 saw our very own Fair City have an abortion story line, Kay McCoy was happily pregnant when she and her husband get a fatal fetal diagnoses of , trisomy-13. Kay opts to travel to the UK to have a Termination for medical reasons. That was 15 years ago and needless to say the producers got hammered in the press and RTE had complaints lodged and vast tracts were written by anti abortion campaigners.
Abortion was also part of the stories in 6 foot under, orange is the new black, Grey’s Anatomy in 2011 dared to show more then ever before when Cristina Yang had her abortion, of course Girls had an abortion episode.
And most recently Scandal November 2015 had Olivia Pope choose to have an abortion which was counter pointed by Milly’s fillabustering in the US Senate to keep planned parenthood’s budget as non optional, echoing the 11 hours Wendy Davis spent on her feet to try prevent abortion restriction legislation in Texas.
So it is not that abortion doesn’t feature as a story in TV shows, but I think that the episodes are seen as too controversial at times to discuss.
Sure the Fair city Wikipedia lists all of the other scandals and issues which the show has covered but Kay’s abortion story and having to travel is barely listed and not dated like the rest of the entries. If anyone is an wiki editor and wants to make that addition the link is here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_City#Social_realism
So it does happen, even in an Irish context there is precedent. we have come a long way from when the brave people from Fubar Films made 50,000 secret journeys and the struggle to get it aired.
I do how ever echo Donald’s call to have more programs made which do cover abortion and in such away that shows how normal it is, but how abnormal having to travel is; but also how the 8th amendment is detrimental to all maternal care and is more then just about abortion.
*[Gay only as bisexual representation is still far behind, I really must get around to writing about that]