When we launched carafem in the Washington, D.C. area last year, we did so with the intent of literally, "changing the conversation" about abortion.
As a child of the '70s, I grew up in the Midwest with a mother who was a feminist and a registered nurse. From the time I was old enough to understand, I knew not only where babies came from, but also that there were times when a woman simply could not be pregnant. Open discussion about abortion happened in my home and in the media, from women's magazines to Erica Kane on the daytime soap All My Children to Maude choosing an abortion on television.
At some point, this open dialog about abortion changed. In the early '90s when I was a young adult, being openly pro-choice was something even my closest friends often stopped claiming publicly. The anti-abortion movement began aggressive harassment and blockades of physician's offices that openly performed abortion. The stigma around abortion became so extreme that television rarely discussed it at all, unless it was to highlight stories of young women in moral crisis, considering abortion but ultimately making the more "acceptable" decision to parent as a teen, or finding the pregnancy was a "scare" -- simply a mistake and a lesson to be learned from.
Today with the availability of the Internet, abortion is again being discussed more widely across all media channels, yet the stories typically focus on those players seeking to capitalize on the procedure's polarizing nature, rather than focusing on the experience. That is, until last week.
In spite of the current ad nauseam public debate about abortion, the only medium that truly has the power to touch multiple generations for today's Americans en masse is the television. Regardless of whether its being streamed or being watched on cable, a topic of debate could float around Congress for years, but once a television show, such as in this case Scandal (ABC), features an experience behind the debate, the term being lobbied really hits home.
It would be foolish on my end to assume that a single television experience could signal a movement toward a more tolerant and open conversation about abortion, but it is a step in the right direction in terms of changing the dialogue. Scandal took the biggest leap in recent history by featuring a one-minute abortion procedure involving Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington), which marked the first time since Roe vs. Wade was passed in 1973 that a main female TV character underwent the procedure. And it was not all that dramatic, which is the exact point we are trying to make about abortion.
One out of three American women will undergo an abortion during their lifetime. It is a more common procedure than the current dialogue would lead you to believe. Do you know three American women? If so, perhaps you should watch the actual clip below from Scandal, and then think hard before you say something insensitive, ignorant or political about abortion the next time you are in the company of three, or more women?
When Christopher Purdy and I launched carafem our first question was how could we provide the best quality abortion care for women? Chris had traveled the world and studied how abortions were handled in other countries and how abortion was provided in those settings and came to the conclusion that we can do better in the United States. In order to do so, the dialogue about abortion needs to continue to change and the services being offered need to reflect what today's woman wants.
Women between the ages of 18-29 have accounted for over half of all abortions. Today, that age range represents the millennial generation, the current spearhead of change across the board in our society. Millennials' wants and needs are very different from the generation that preceded them. When seeking medical services, they want a provider that has credibility but also operates in digital world and offers a flexible scheduling process that aligns with their busy lives. Carafem is providing just that. And now Hollywood is helping us change the dialogue.