The XX Factor

Is TV Getting Better at Addressing Abortion?

Warning: if you have yet to watch last night’s Mad Men , there are spoilers ahead!

After the booze-fueled, conga-lined, get-drunk-and-make-bad-decisions office Christmas party that was the highlight of last week’s episode of Mad Men , the third installment of the season opened with a more sober scene : Joan is sitting in a hospital gown in her doctor’s office, cool and calm as ever, asking her Doc if her two past abortions (“procedures”) will affect her fertility. As it turns out, one of Joan’s past abortions was performed by her doctor (maybe quasi-legally?) and the other by a midwife. And sure, Mad Men is a show of extreme subtlety, but for the duration of the short scene, Joan seems pretty damn self-possessed and matter-of-fact about the whole matter. Ironically enough, a medical conversation about abortion without overtones of despair and emotional upheaval seems harder to come by now in this day and age when the procedure is actually legal.

This revelation about Joan’s past also brings the abortion-on-TV count this year up to two (see Jess’s great post on the Friday Night Lights abortion ), which is basically bonafide abortion bonanza in entertainment terms.  No more terribly convenient miscarriages ( ahem, BIG LOVE ). No “schmabortion” jokes necessary on the small screen. It’s about time television has gotten better at confronting a reality that 33 percent of women will undergo before they’re 45 . Let’s hope the trend extends to movies.