Abortion versus popular culture

Advocates of abortion – especially those who see abortion as little more than a somewhat more painful version of birth control – would like us all to believe that the vast majority of women, as well as a significant majority of all Americans, support abortion on demand.  They couldn't be farther from the truth.

Setting aside the fact that Roe v. Wade was really bad constitutional law, building on the only recently set precedent of an unspecified "right to privacy," a right that nearly 200 years of Supreme Court rulings had never before discovered, the claims that the right to an abortion on demand actually has relatively few supporters.

Flawed as it is, the shaky constitutional precedent Roe v. Wade set is less flawed than the pro-abortionists' claim of widespread public support.  A Marist poll published last year found that a clear majority of Americans believe that abortions do women more harm than good – including 56 percent of all women and 27 percent of pro-choice advocates.  Nationally, Gallup finds that just 29 percent of Americans agree with abortion-on-demand advocates that abortion should be legal under any circumstances.

However, the real metric that shows what Americans really believe can be found in popular culture – especially in mass-market mainstream movies and television programs.  Those films and programs live or die based on audience acceptance of their messages.  While this may not be true for feminist cable networks such as whatever Oprah's network is called this week – or for narrowly focused "chick flicks" that target the pro-choice segment of the market – mainstream media movies, along with cable and broadcast TV programs, view abortion as a "third rail," one devoutly to be avoided.

You find this especially in television programs, usually when a program's star becomes pregnant in "real life" – but also when a pretend pregnancy is written into the script, only to be terminated, but never by abortion.  Over the past year of watching a significant number of crime dramas on Netflix and Amazon – research for a mystery novel I'm writing – I have seen a significant number of lead character or ensemble cast regular character pregnancies.  In not once instance has the character had an abortion, nor has that option been discussed, even if only in passing. 

Of those on-screen pregnancies, roughly one third ended in the character's first trimester, generally because of a crime job-related accident.  I presume that those were written in from the beginning with the accidental termination in mind.  A lost but wanted pregnancy creates a sympathetic character, which builds strong audience support.  Overall, in every single on-screen pregnancy I've seen, either the baby is carried to term or the pregnancy ends in a tragic manner.  Not one of those pregnancies ended in abortion, and in no case was the "choice" option even seriously discussed.  The closest these programs came to talking about abortions have featured dialog that runs something like this:

Leading man: "So are you really...?"

Leading lady: "What the hell do you think?"

Leading man: "So are you going to...?"

Leading lady: "What the hell do you think?"

That is the alpha and the omega of on-screen discussions of the "choice" option.  She's pregnant (duh!), and she's going to carry the child to term (duh!) unless the screenwriters end her pregnancy tragically.

Why is this significant?  When it comes to TV and the movies, it's always easy to find the answer.  Just follow the money.

Prime-time television and cable programming – and to an even greater extent, mainstream theatrical movies – depend on mass audiences to succeed.  Without millions of viewers, programs get canceled.  Worse, movies that can't find audiences are consigned to the cinematic hell presided over by film disasters such as Ishtar, Heaven's Gate, Gigli, and Battlefield Earth.  

If the choice option were as popular as the abortion-on-demand crowd claims, networks and movie producers would be rushing to create dramatic crises that are ended by well timed and well received abortions.  But that hasn't happened – and that fact says more than any poll about how American adults really feel about abortion. 

They won't buy it – literally, they won't buy it.

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