Slow Burn: Roe v. Wade

Season 7: Bonus Episode 1
Content Locked for Slate Plus members

The 1960s TV Drama That Dared to Defend the Right to Abortion

And inspired a plotline in Mad Men decades later.

Episode Notes

In this member-exclusive episode, Slow Burn’s host Susan Matthews and producer Samira Tazari discuss what to expect this season, and what it was like to interview people in Shirley Wheeler’s life for Episode 1. Then, Matthews interviews TV historian Stephen Bowie about the TV drama The Defenders, which aired a surprisingly progressive take on abortion rights in 1962 that scared off the show’s regular advertisers and some network stations.

Mentioned in the episode:
“Benefactors” by Stephen Bowie, The Classic TV History Blog

Production by Chau Tu.

About the Show

In the early 1970s, the future of abortion in America was far from settled. Some states were pushing to liberalize their laws. In others, women could be prosecuted for terminating a pregnancy. Unexpected and dramatic battles raged across the country, shaping the landscape of abortion—even before Roe v. Wade was decided.

For the seventh season of Slate’s Slow Burn, host Susan Matthews explores the path to Roe—a time when more Republicans than Democrats supported abortion rights. You’ll hear the forgotten story of the first woman ever to be convicted of manslaughter for having an abortion, the unlikely Catholic power couple who helped ignite the pro-life movement, and a rookie Supreme Court justice who got assigned the opinion of a lifetime.

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  • Chau Tu is a former editor of Slate Plus.