Infographic: Fictional characters way more likely to die after abortion than real people

Abortion storylines on TV and Film over time

From ANSIRH’s infographic on abortion storylines onscreen. Full infographic available here.

Reproductive health researchers from ANSIRH recently did a census of all abortion-related storylines in American television shows and films. Although we’ve lamented the dearth of abortions on screen–particularly on primetime TV shows–according to the survey, over the last century, there’ve been 385 abortion storylines in pop culture–and recent years have seen a spike. 

However, the researchers note, “these stories are often inaccurate and not necessarily true to most people’s experiences with abortion.” For one thing, fictional pregnant people are much more likely to choose adoption than they are in real life. And, as illustrated in the chart below, abortion is portrayed as much more risky than it actually is. While the procedure is one of the safest out there–the risk of major complications, let alone death, is less than 1 percent–almost 10 percent of fictional women died as a result of their abortions. (And others were murdered before they went through with it, which is also very disturbing and telling.)

risk of death from abortion in real life vs. pop culture

As the researchers warn, these depictions matter. By reinforcing negative myths around the procedure, “they can have real effects on women’s experience of seeking abortion care.”

Click here to see the full infographic illustrating the findings.

(H/T Bitch magazine)

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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