TV Creators Call for More Discussion About Abortion in Shows

Issue 26 REP East Los High Still - H 2013
Evangeline Ordaz

Issue 26 REP East Los High Still - H 2013

According to Hollywood, Health & Society's Kate Langrall Folb, the depiction of abortion on television is through characters who are whiter, younger and wealthier than women who get them in real life. But in a discussion between Folb and producers Rina Mimoun (Everwood) and Mauricio Mota (East Los High), the trio agreed that just as important as changing that depiction is discussing abortion as an option for pregnant women on television.

"I think the goal of all of it — network, streaming, everything — is to stop making it the one-off episode," said Mimoun. She wants "women to be allowed to talk about birth control and our options because that is a part of our life."

As far as the depiction of abortion on their shows, Mimoun noted that the original pitch for Everwood was that Treat Williams' Dr. Brown was a small-town abortionist rather than a small-town family doctor. So when the show tackled abortion in its first season, it was always a storyline that creator Greg Berlanti planned to do.

"When we aired, we premiered to modest ratings and the reviews were very mixed," Mimoun said. "This episode put a lot of reviews back in the papers, because it was pre-Twitter, and people talked about the show again, saying, 'Oh, wait — maybe we all should give this show a second look.'"

On East Los High, Mota wanted to make sure to show the entire circumstances surrounding the young character's decision to get an abortion: "It's very important to talk about abortion, but it's important to talk about the systemic things related to abortion."

Folb, Mota and Mimoun praised recent episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Scandal for their portrayals of abortion, along with the way Friday Night Lights handled the issue — but criticized a season one episode of This Is Us for the fact that abortion was not in the conversation at all. When Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) learned she was pregnant, Mimoun said the fact that the couple didn't even discuss abortion as an option was disappointing to her.

"Those two people in reality absolutely would've talked about it," she said. And while there are women in the This Is Us writers room, "I do wonder if that was a woman's show, would that scene on the floor of the hotel room have been different? Maybe," added Mimoun.

Mota agreed that the lack of discussion about abortion was noticeable. "That character, he's an overthinker," said Mota. "They would discuss all the options."