Study: Depictions of Abortion on TV Have Real-Life Consequences

Characters having abortions tend to be white, well-off, and childless
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2015 4:28 PM CST
Study: Depictions of Abortion on TV Have Real-Life Consequences
Abortion-rights activists protest in 2013 in Ohio. A new study found the depiction of who is getting abortions and why on TV is wildly different from reality.   (Brooke LaValley/The Columbus Dispatch via AP, File)

The women having abortions on TV are richer, whiter, and younger than in reality, and that can create serious problems for women and politicians in the real world, NPR reports. Researchers looked at 78 abortion plots on TV from 2005 to 2014 and published their results this month in Contraception. They found 90% of TV characters having abortions were white compared to 36% in real life. And 40% of real women having abortions are living in poverty compared to less than 20% on TV. Women on TV are 6,000 times more likely to die during an abortion. And on TV 15% of women getting abortions already have children; that number is four times higher in real life. "The majority of women getting abortions are already parenting, and the vast majority intend to parent during their lives," researcher Gretchen Sisson tells NPR.

Another major change between real life and TV is why women are having abortions. Medical Daily reports only 20% of women cite school or their career when having abortions—frequent "self-focused" reasons given by TV characters. In reality, women say they can't afford to have the child or want to focus on the children they already have, according to NPR. Researcher Katrina Kimport tells Medical Daily that changes the way the public thinks about abortion funding—seeing abortion as a "want" rather than a "financial necessity." "Onscreen representations may influence public understandings, contributing to the production of abortion stigma and judgments about appropriate restrictions on abortion care," the study states. Nearly one-third of women will have an abortion by the time they're 45, NPR reports. (Read more abortion stories.)

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