Posted on April 19, 2017
If you’re looking for an escape from reality, check out how television treats abortion–because it has even less relationship to real life than Game of Thrones, Westworld, or Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
As shown in a recent study from the reproductive health research organization Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, abortions on TV result in serious complications 42.5% of the time. That’s more than 20 times the rate of health problems that occur during real life abortion procedures. And it gets even more unreal: 5% of abortion patients on TV die–6,850 times the actual mortality rate for abortion procedures!! In 80 abortion plots that aired between 2005 and 2016, four characters died. In the much-safer real world, 0.00073 percent of abortion patients die.
And yeah, we’re talking about fiction, we know. But these radically skewed numbers have consequences. As an article in Slate discussing the findings put it, “TV shows that turn a routine medical service into a life-threatening risk are shaping the way millions of Americans imagine a procedure they know very little about.”
For instance: a Vox poll showed that 68% of respondents disagreed that abortion is “very safe.” In fact, it’s safer than giving birth–but only 19% of people knew that. Only 9 percent know that abortion is safer than a colonoscopy.
In 2015, ABC’s Scandal broke the mold by showing Olivia Pope actually undergoing a routine and safe abortion procedure. But in real life, the drama around abortion involves the struggle to get one.
Despite the dangers of abortions in TV-land, actually getting an abortion on the small screen is a cakewalk compared to what people have to go through in real life. A study in Feminism & Psychology found that on TV, “obstacles to abortion access are shown as easily overcome.” TV shows routinely “communicate that abortion is relatively easy to access.” Tell that to residents of Kentucky, who are desperately fighting to keep their last abortion clinic open.
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