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Abortion No Longer Taboo Topic on Prime Time Television

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Once a taboo topic on TV, abortion is being worked into the storylines of popular prime time series from “Friday Night Lights” to “Grey’s Anatomy.” And last week it was announced that Alan Ball, creator of HBO’s “True Blood,” is working on a new HBO series called “Wichita,” which will be based on the life of Dr. George Tiller, the abortion clinic doctor who was shot and killed by a pro-life activist in 2009.

As plotlines involving abortion become more commonplace, some are celebrating the erosion of stigmas surrounding abortion, while others grow increasingly alarmed.

“The liberal media is using television to win the abortion issue. We are now seeing the new trend and it is dangerous,” Dan Gainor, vice president for business and culture at the Media Research Center, tells Fox411. “Who is the creator of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ but Shonda Rhimes, who is on the board of Planned Parenthood in Los Angeles. We are finding in these entertainment shows that they are pushing a left-wing agenda.”

This season on the ABC drama, surgeon Cristina Yang, portrayed by actress Sandra Oh, was portrayed getting an abortion following several episodes of discussion about her reasons for wanting one. She didn’t want to be a mother, and her husband on the show, played by Kevin McKidd, was against the abortion until the final hour.

Last year on the NBC series “Friday Night Lights,” a high school student was featured asking about an abortion and being provided literature about the procedure from the high school’s principal, which caused commotion in the entire community. She eventually went through with it.

The blog Feministing.com wrote a post about that episode entitled: “I’m Rooting For an Abortion This Friday Night."

In it the writer said: “If she has one tonight, it will be one of only a few abortions shown on network television since Bea Arthur’s Maude had one back in 1972. That would be a victory for Becky–and the millions of women like her who choose abortion every year.”

Feministing.com editor Chloe Angyal told Fox411.com that she is hoping to see more abortion story lines on television.

“Mindy Kaling is working on a sitcom about an OB/GYN which I hope will include an abortion plotline at some point,” Angyal told Fox411. She says increasing the number of depictions of abortions in pop culture will more accurately depict the experiences of real women.

Jessica Wakeman, who blogs about women’s issues on TheFrisky.com, said abortions on television are a good thing, most of the time.

“It's a good thing that abortion is getting more visibility on TV because that could de-stigmatize it,” Wakeman said.

But she added that it depends on the context of the abortion plot line—it has to paint abortion as a viable option.

“There is not much variety in abortion plot lines on TV. Too many shows fall prey to the ‘I was considering an abortion but then, oops, I fell down the stairs and lost the baby’ plot line, which is a total cop-out,” Wakeman said.  “Abortion should not be something that TV writers only bring up as a vehicle to make the woman have a miscarriage.”

Joe Scheidler, national director of the ProLife Action League in Chicago, also wants prime time dramas keep these story lines coming.

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity when you are fighting a battle like this. At least the issue is alive. It is serious enough that they have to put it in their programming,” Scheidler told Fox411. “Even though we are portrayed badly, once in a while they will slip up, and give the impression that the abortion is not a good idea, and it is not solving anyone’s problems. The media can’t leave it alone, and that’s good.”

 

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