How do you normalize abortion, the intentional killing of innocent human beings? One way is through propaganda—think of the oft-repeated (and scientifically illiterate) claim that the unborn are “not human beings,” or the oft-repeated (and philosophically indefensible) claim that the unborn are “not persons,” two frequent assertions that are meant to justify abortion. These are tools that serve to make people comfortable with the mass-scale killing of innocents, which is what abortion is.
Another way is through pop culture, which can be weaponized as a form of propaganda, though a less overt and in many ways more clever form of it. Pop culture is also a more attractive form of propaganda, because you can make money off of it. People are a lot more willing to justify barbarity and bloodshed if they can make a little cash in the process.
The normalization of abortion through pop culture has been picking up some steam lately. As ThinkProgress noted last year, television shows have started addressing abortion more frequently. And there has been a noticeable trend in the way that abortion—the killing of innocent human beings—is portrayed:
This year, abortion wasn’t always portrayed as a dramatic or life-altering decision. In this season of HBO’s Girls, for example, one character casually mentions the fact that she recently had an abortion, a decision that she didn’t talk over with her boyfriend and that she defends against his negative reaction once he finds out. In the CW’s Jane the Virgin, one character calmly advises another to get an abortion rather than follow through with a pregnancy that was conceived through deceptive means. And on Scandal, Kerry Washington’s character gets an abortion without any discussion about the procedure whatsoever.
“We’re seeing more abortions treated as matter-of-fact and unapologetic. We’re not seeing a lot of the agonizing decision making that we would have seen even five years ago,” Sisson said. “Abortion is being shown a little more like just another part of women’s reproductive lives.”
(Note: abortion is not a part of a woman’s “reproductive life,” because by the time an abortion is undertaken, reproduction has already taken place. Abortion is not reproduction; it is destruction, and of a very specific kind.)
Anyway, a fair number of people really geek out when abortion is portrayed as “matter-of-fact and unapologetic.” (The CW television show mentioned above, Jane the Virgin, did end up featuring an abortion that was indeed unapologetic.) Abortion advocates really like it when fictional women get abortions and don’t really care about them. Case in point: another CW television show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend:
Because Paula is married and because she has children, she’s determined that abortion is ruled out for her. But later, after filing a legal brief on Rebecca’s behalf, she realizes that, yes, she wants to become a lawyer more than she wants to have another baby.
The next time we see Paula, she’s lying in bed, looking resolved though a little tired. The procedure has already happened and she shows no signs of regret or shame, nor does her husband or children. In fact, when the pizza delivery man rings their doorbell, her typically lazy teenage son casually remarks, “Mom, I’ll get it since you just had an abortion.”
Jezebel says this is a good example of the “importance of normalized depictions of abortions and the women who get them.” I’m not sure that the author really understands what “normalized” means, at least in this context. Given the high levels of regret experienced by abortive women—over fifty percent in some studies, with high percentages also experiencing other psychological, physiological and sexual side-effects—it would seem like “normalized” depictions of abortions, i.e. abortions that sufficiently reflect the population subgroup of the women who have them, should also include the women who experience serious remorse and sorrow after killing their unborn children. But you wouldn’t imagine Jezebel celebrating that kind of “depiction,” would you? Better to just have a “lazy teenage son” be totally cool with and laid-back about the stark reality of a dead sibling; better to have a mother want to “become a lawyer” rather than allow her baby to, you know, live.
At Vox, Constance Grady writes: “On these shows, abortion isn’t dramatic — and that’s what makes them so exciting.” Exciting. As she puts it: “It’s a sneakily political choice that’s all the more powerful for how understated it is. For these characters, abortion is not traumatic or horrifying in and of itself;” rather, “an abortion is just a medical procedure that fixes a problem.” A problem.
Reading all of these celebratory lauds to abortion pop culture, you begin to feel a niggling suspicion: many of these people know what’s what. They know what abortion is; they know that the unborn are as human as you or I, and that abortion snatches away from the unborn what is rightfully theirs: life. How could any reasonably bright and moderately reflective person believe otherwise? And surely they know that a very sizable number of women experience crushing grief over their abortions. But these same folks are also convinced that abortion is inextricably bound up in a woman’s quality of life, that a woman is not truly free unless she is free to obliterate a life growing inside of her, and that a pro-life regime would somehow make women into breedling livestock. So they are forced to cover up so much of the truth: to turn away from the frequent pain of abortion, and the truth undergirding that pain. It’s not murder, it’s “just another part of women’s reproductive lives.” Nobody is upset; even the teenage son is chill about it. I’m sure it’s very comforting to watch such a television program and have precisely zero of your biases challenged in any way at all.
Meanwhile, Sonya Saraiya at Vogue is delighted with the way things are going:
Perhaps not all of us would be as comfortable with these decisions; perhaps for us, it would not be an “abobo” followed by lunch. But in their cut-and-dried nature, the abortion stories of these three shows have a way of clearing the air around the debate, divorcing shame and anxiety from the experience to attempt to engage with them as they are regularly, daily, universally lived.
I hate to point this out to Ms. Saraiya, but abortions are not “universally lived” as they are portrayed on these television shows: as I wrote above, many women are decidedly miserable after abortion, and remain so for a very long time. Ignoring the grief and anguish of countless abortive women is not simply a cowardly thing to do; it is a nasty and opportunistic political ploy meant to hide the truth about abortion behind a veneer of simpleminded bubblegum pop-culture fairy tales. Abortion kills human beings, and there are plenty of women who grasp this and come to regret having done it. Do their stories deserve to be told? Or are these women simply a “problem?”
Source: Tell the Truth and Shame Cecile