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ABC Drama 'Scandal' Depicts Realistic Abortion on Network Television

ABC Drama 'Scandal' Depicts Realistic Abortion on Network Television

November 24, 2015 — "Scandal," an ABC drama and political thriller, last week depicted its main character having a realistic abortion -- "a first" for network television, Vox reports.

Depiction of Abortion on 'Scandal'

According to Vox, the episode "focuses heavily on reproductive health issues, bringing current political issues into the plot" by featuring an "hours-long filibuster to save Planned Parenthood's funding." The show's main character, Olivia Pope, watches news coverage of the "successful filibuster from the waiting room of an abortion clinic."

"The [abortion] scene was surprising in two ways," Vox states, noting, "First, it was an on-air depiction of the actual abortion procedure -- something that's never been shown onscreen on a network ... primetime series." According to Vox, many televised depictions of abortion "involve women making a last-minute decision not to have an abortion" and in shows where a character does have an abortion, it is usually suggested through shots of a woman in a waiting room or bed.

"Second, and a bit more subtly, Scandal provides a different reason for having an abortion," Vox states. While most shows that tackle pregnancy and abortion do so through "people who would struggle to take care of a newborn baby," Pope "affirmatively decides that even while she could handle a baby, she does not want one." By doing so, "Scandal" creator Shonda Rhimes "breaks ground not just in depicting an abortion on television, but in explaining the reasons why women terminate pregnancies in America," Vox states.

Further, according to Vox, the episode in its depiction of the medical aspects of the procedure "show[s] abortion for what it is: one of the most common, least complicated surgeries that exists in the United States right now" (Kliff, Vox, 11/20).

Planned Parenthood Praises Episode

Planned Parenthood on Friday praised "Scandal" for showing how women's "rights to reproductive health care are under attack." The organization said it "hope[d] those in Congress -- and throughout the nation -- who are steadfast on rolling the clock back on reproductive health care access are taking note" (Richardson, The Hill, 11/20).