To quote Gloria Feldt, “Media portrayals, real or fictional, don’t merely inform us — they form us.” In this series, I will be examining five films – classic, mainstream, independent, foreign, and pre-Roe – and five television shows – soap opera, pre-Roe, drama, critically lauded, and teen-oriented – that address unexpected pregnancy, to examine how past portrayals can influence and reflect society’s view of abortion.
It’s impossible to discuss abortion in pop culture and not bring up “Maude,” the popular sitcom that ran from 1972-1978. Two months into the show’s first season, the two-part “Maude’s Dilemma” dealt with Maude’s unexpected pregnancy at age 47. She decides to have an abortion, which at the time was legal in New York, where the show was set. (The procedure was also legal in a handful of other states and the District of Columbia.) When CBS aired the episodes again the following summer, a number of affiliates refused to air the program. In an interview about the storyline, series creator Norman Lear said that the original airings did not generate any controversy or negative reaction from viewers.