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What It's Like to Have an Abortion in Texas: TV Shows Finally Grappling with Realities Women Face

As states pass record numbers of abortion restrictions, TV and film go to the abortion clinic, with varying results.

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Greenberg: Abortion in a Blue State

And then there’s the abortion in Greenberg--an L.A. abortion, in a big city, without a waiting period or any family members objecting. Still, heroine Florence, a young woman who wants to be a singer, is upset about the cost of the procedure--as a personal assistant, we assume she doesn’t have insurance--and neurotic about pain. If FNL illustrates a red-state abortion and “Secret Life” shows an abortion in a mythological American town, Greenberg depicts a blue-state abortion, the kind of abortion that Brenda Hampton and the “Secret Life” team think anyone can get with a snap of her fingers. And yet even Florence can’t snap her fingers. She needs the help of her friends, she needs money, and she needs to go to the hospital.

What’s fascinating and wonderful about this film, and the stark performance of its female lead, Greta Gerwig, is that she’s the kind of person stereotyped by anti-choicers as having a “bad” abortion. She’s young, she’s sleeping around, she’s not watching out for herself, and her abortion serves as a wake-up call for her to find a new direction in her life. But Florence's post-adolescent, lost-in-the world pathos, and her innate goodness to other people, truly invite us to sympathize with her plight and even laugh as her erstwhile love interest sticks a hamburger in her face when she wakes up from anesthesia. (“She said she couldn’t eat before the procedure” he explains.) For Florence, who is just learning to take care of herself, the abortion is a necessary, if uncomfortable, good.

As we ponder the mini abortion boom onscreen, the question we’re left with is whether the real Florences of the world, for whom abortion is accessible but not easy, will keep advocating for the Beckys, the young women in rural America who are watching their access dwindle and dwindle some more. Abortion will always be available for the Florences, even if they have to borrow and beg to get there. But for women in places like the fictional Dillon, Texas, the freedom to make an informed decision about a pregnancy, whatever the decision is, is disappearing slowly and surely.  Those of us who will never have to worry about choice need to step up and fight on their behalf.

Sarah Seltzer is an RH Reality Check staff writer and a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published in Bitch, Venus Zine, Women's eNews and Publishers' Weekly.

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