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13 Hollywood Storytellers on Bringing Abortion to the Screen, Then and Now

Following the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade reversal, filmmakers and TV writers — from 'Veep' and 'The Handmaid's Tale' to 'Obvious Child' — discuss their onscreen portrayals and the urgency of telling more stories around reproductive rights with The Hollywood Reporter.

In 1972, a two-part episode of the groundbreaking Norman Lear comedy Maude saw its main character unexpectedly pregnant and 47. Over two episodes of primetime television, Bea Arthur’s Maude weighed the decision of having an abortion. A year later, in 1973, a constitutional right to abortion was established by the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade. “Forty years later, it’s a more sensitive subject than it was then,” Lear told The Hollywood Reporter in a 2020 interview.

Since Maude, abortion, reproduction rights and contraception have increasingly appeared onscreen. After the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision that overturned Roe on June 24, THR spoke with showrunners and filmmakers behind some of the recent series and movies that have included abortions in storylines and shown characters realistically receiving abortion and reproductive care. Creators like Vida’s Tanya Saracho and Unpregnant director Rachel Lee Goldberg reveal what personally drew them to telling these stories and the process of getting them to the screen.

They also discuss what they think entertainment’s role could be in a post-Roe country.

“Every single woman that I have spoken to since this happened is completely enraged,” says Aline Brosh McKenna, whose musical comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend saw a character get an abortion. In wake of Roe being overturned, the showrunner says there will be content that deals with new realities of seeking abortion care, and her thoughts are echoed by many below: “I think it’s forcing a lot of women to think differently about their role in the world, and that will inevitably be reflected in the writing and the art.”