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Film and television episodes about abortion can help educate people and spark conversations about sex, sexuality, birth control, abortion, and more. While there is still much work to be done, there are an increasing number of these works being released into popular culture, and much progress has been made when it comes to depictions of abortion onscreen. 

The films and TV episodes below all feature abortion storylines and are well worth watching:

NARRATIVE FILMS 

UNPREGNANT (2020)

Synopsis: Written and directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg, Unpregnant tells the story of 17-year-old Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson) who never thought she’d want to fail a test until she finds herself staring at a piece of plastic with a blue plus. With a promising college-bound future now disappearing before her eyes, Veronica decides to have an abortion. Her decision takes her on a 1,000 mile road trip to New Mexico over three days with her ex-best friend, Bailey (Barbie Ferreira).

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NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS (2020)

Synopsis: Written and directed by Eliza Hittman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is an intimate portrayal of two teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania. Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) embark across state lines to New York City on a fraught journey of friendship, bravery, and compassion.

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SWALLOW (2019)

Synopsis: Written and directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis, Swallow is about a young housewife (Haley Bennett) with a seemingly perfect life and marriage. She develops a disorder that gives her an irresistible urge to eat inedible objects and has an unintended pregnancy.

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LITTLE WOODS (2018)

Synopsis: Written and directed by Nia DaCosta, Little Woods tells the story of two estranged sisters, Ollie (Tessa Thompson) and Deb (Lily James), who are just getting by in economically depressed Little Woods, a fracking boomtown in North Dakota. But when their mother dies, they are thrust back into each other's lives. Little Woods includes a storyline about access to abortion, and how very difficult it can be due to a variety of reasons, including cost and travel. 

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GRANDMA (2015)

Synopsis: Written and directed by Paul Weitz, Grandma is about Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin) who has just broken up with her girlfriend, when her teenage granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) unexpectedly shows up needing $600 for an abortion. What ensues is an urban road trip in Elle’s vintage Dodge as they spend the day trying to get their hands on the money needed for Sage’s abortion. 

Resources:

  • Trailer
  • Streaming on: Hulu, Sling TV, Starz, Prime Video, Philo
  • Available for Rent on: Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play, iTunes, and YouTube

 

OBVIOUS CHILD (2014)

Synopsis: Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child follows Donna (Jenny Slate), a stand-up comedian, who has a drunken one-night stand after breaking up with her boyfriend. She subsequently finds out she is pregnant and decides to have an abortion.Obvious Child is a honest story about one young woman trying to figure out life and dating, and it includes an unapologetic look at her decision to have an abortion.

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DOCUMENTARY FEATURES

REVERSING ROE (2018)

Synopsis: Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg’s Reversing Roe presents an illuminating look at the state of abortion and women’s rights in America. Executive produced by Eva Longoria, it offers candid and riveting interviews with both supporters and opponents of reproductive rights, including key pro-women’s health leaders such as PPSLR provider Dr. Colleen McNicholas, former Planned Parenthood presidents Cecile Richards and Faye Wattleton, and former chair of PPFA’s Clergy Advisory Board Reverend Tom DavisReversing Roe provides a gripping look at efforts to restrict access to abortion in 2018. Drawing from a wealth of historical footage, it charts the period leading up to the Roe decision — and documents the opposition that has followed ever since. 

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TRAPPED (2016)

Synopsis: Dawn Porter’s TRAPPED follows the struggles of some of the health center workers and lawyers who are on the front lines of the battle to keep abortion safe and legal. The documentary focuses on health centers and laws in Alabama, Texas, and Mississippi and features Amy Hagstrom Miller and Marva Sadler of Whole Woman’s Health; Dalton Johnson from Alabama Women’s Health; Gloria Gray of West Alabama Women’s Health; and Nancy Northup, President and CEO of The Center for Reproductive Rights. It premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking, and PPFA Board member Diane Max is an executive producer. 

Resources:

  • Trailer
  • Available for Rent on: Prime Video, iTunes, AppleTV+

 

SHORT FILMS  

ABORTION HELPLINE, THIS IS LISA (2019)

Synopsis: Directed by Janet Goldwater, Mike Attie, and Barbara Attie, Abortion Helpline portrays the Philadelphia abortion helpline, where counselors arrive each morning to the nonstop ring of calls from women and teens who are seeking to end a pregnancy but can’t afford to. In this short documentary, we learn how economic stigma and cruel legislation determines who in America has access to abortion. Since its premiere at Sundance 2020, Abortion Helpline has received many accolades, including the AFI Docs Grand Jury Award, a nomination for 2020 IDA Documentary Award, and short listed for the Documentary Short Subject category for the 2021 Academy Awards.

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OURS TO TELL (2020)

Synopsis: Co-produced by PPFA and We TestifyOurs to Tell showcases the powerful and self-determined lives of four people from diverse backgrounds, and highlights the empowerment that comes from being able to access abortion and live full, healthy lives. The film's intimate conversations illustrate how bodily autonomy allows people to thrive. The stories also make a powerful statement about where we are in this moment. We see what is at stake as politicians continue to restrict abortion access. We also see that even with the right to abortion, access is systemically blocked in communities where people already face barriers to equal health care. 

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TELEVISION EPISODES

THIS IS US

Episode: Season 5, Episode 5: “A Long Road Home”

Summary: In this episode of Dan Fogelman’s This is Us, Kate (Chrissy Metz) tells her husband that she had an abortion as a teenager because she was not ready to be a parent and was in an abusive relationship. The episode features a flashback to teenage Kate (Hannah Zeile) in Pennsylvania going to the health center and talking to a provider, who explains to Kate that there is a 24 hour waiting period. Kate has a surgical abortion. 

Top Clips:

Entertainment Weekly: This Is Us producer breaks down Kate's abortion choice, Laurel clues

Streaming on: Peacock, Hulu, YouTube TV, Sling TV, FubuTV, NBC

Available for Purchase: YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Apple TV+, Vudu, Amazon Prime

 

JANE THE VIRGIN

Episode: Season 3, Episode 2: “Chapter 46”

Summary: In this episode of Jennie Snyder Urman’s Jane the Virgin, Jane's mother Xo (Andrea Navedo) has a medication abortion, and is nervous to tell her mother Alba (Ivonne Coll), a devout Catholic. Ultimately, Alba tells Xo that she does not agree with her decision but understands that it is her decision and supports her. 

Top Clips:

Refinery29: Why Jane The Virgin's Abortion Episode Was So Revolutionary

Vanity Fair: How Jane the Virgin Crafted the Perfect Abortion Story Line

Streaming on: Netflix

Available for Purchase: YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Apple TV+, Vudu, Amazon Prime

 

CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND

Episode: Season 2, Episode 4: “When Will Josh and His Friend Leave Me Alone?”

Summary: In this episode of Rachel Bloom’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin), a married mother of a teenage son, is pregnant and deciding whether to parent another child or pursue a law degree. Ultimately, Paula decides to have an abortion and become a lawyer. She is open with her family about her decision, and her family support her and care for her after the procedure.

Top Clips:

Mashable: 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' joins shows that are dealing with abortion in a refreshing, honest way

Jezebel: The Most Recent Episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Featured a Very Undramatic Abortion

Streaming on: Netflix

Available for Purchase: YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Apple TV+, Vudu, Amazon Prime

 

SEX EDUCATION

Episode: Season 1, Episode 3: “Episode 3”

Summary: In this episode of Laurie Nunn’s Sex Education, Maeve (Emma Mackey), a UK high schooler, finds out she is pregnant and decides to have an abortion (which is cost-free through the UK National Health Service). Otis (Asa Butterfield), Maeve’s friend and peer, accompanies her to her appointment after school. After the procedure, Maeve is relieved and able to continue with her life and pursue the future that she desires. 

Streaming on: Netflix

 

SHRILL

Episode: Season 1, Episode 1: “Annie”

Summary: In the pilot episode of Lindy West’s Shrill, Annie (Aidy Bryant), a young writer living in Portland, OR, discovers she is pregnant and considers whether to have an abortion or continue to pregnancy. Ultimately, she decides to have an abortion and seeks care at her local Planned Parenthood health center. After the procedure, Annie feels empowered and relieved. 

Top Clips:

The Washington Post: The unsentimental abortion scene in ‘Shrill’isn’t groundbreaking. Here’s why that’s a big deal.

Streaming on: Hulu

Available for Purchase: YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Apple TV+, Vudu, Amazon Prime

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