Planned Parenthood Calls Out NBC for Censoring the Word "Abortion" Out of Film Ad

From Juno to Knocked Up, unwanted pregnancies in film often end with the woman giving birth. That’s why Obvious Child, a humble indie film in which the lead character chooses to get an abortion, seems earth shattering.

Through hilarious lines and heartfelt actions, the comedy provides a huge service to tackling abortion stigma —a stigma that was clearly proven to be alive and well after reports found that NBC had removed the word ”abortion” from an ad for the film.

After an initial report claimed that NBC turned down the ad because it deals with abortion, Planned Parenthood created a petition urging the network to #StoptheStigma.

Their petition stated:

Reports allege that NBC is refusing to allow the word "abortion" on air. It’s been more than 40 years since abortion was legalized – it’s about time television caught up. …

Here’s the scoop: NBC reportedly refused to run an ad for the romantic comedy Obvious Child because the ad included the word "abortion," with sources saying that they found the "subject matter was inappropriate for viewers. 

It’s outrageous that a major network would choose to censor mentions about abortion. For far too long, the refusal to talk honestly about abortion has led to increasing stigma around the issue, and it’s got to stop. 

Three in ten women will have an abortion by age 45. And the vast majority of Americans support access to safe and legal abortion. If NBC, is censoring the use of the word "abortion," then the network is refusing to even take part in a conversation, let alone an honest one that accurately reflects women’s lives. 

The petition garnered 15,000 signatures and a response from NBC admitting that they indeed censored an online ad and will be correcting this ‘mistake.’

In its statement to Planned Parenthood, NBC wrote:

NBCUniversal has no policy against accepting ads that include the word “abortion.” Several ad proposals for “Obvious Child” were submitted to our television broadcast standards group for review, and, consistent with NBCUniversal policy and practice, no direction was given to remove references to the word “abortion.” Ultimately, no final ad was submitted or purchased for television broadcast.

Separately, an online ad was submitted for digital placement and feedback was mistakenly given to remove the word “abortion.” That is not company policy and we are currently reviewing our ad standards processes to ensure they are consistent across all platforms moving forward.

Our digital platforms will accept the ad as it was originally submitted.

Amidst this victory, it’s important to remember to increase our awareness of how abortion is portrayed in the media. A recent census found that from 1916- 2013, there were only 385 abortion-related plotlines in TV and film  — 87 of which aired on primetime network television. While the numbers aren’t completely trivial, they are still small considering that abortion is an extremely common female experience.

And if just by silencing this common procedure isn’t stigmatization enough, the plotlines that do take on abortion continue to portray it inaccurately. Of the plotlines studied, nine percent of characters considering abortion ultimately decided to have their baby and choose adoption. In real life, only one percent of women do this.

In addition, nine percent of fictional female characters died as a result of having an abortion, when in reality, the chance of dying from an abortion is statistically zero percent.

This is why films like Obvious Child are so vital. The Sundance award-winning abortion comedy, which stars actress Jenny Slate, is about a stand-up comedian in her late twenties who ends up pregnant and chooses to get an abortion, which leaves her feeling neither guilt nor regret. Honest and unapologetic, the film successfully works to normalize the procedure—which nearly every third woman in America gets by age 45.

While NBC’s temporary ad censorship surely ignited the pushback against stigma, hopefully the film continues to spark dialogue that helps tear down the unnecessary shame associated with abortion in order to demand its accessibility.

With abortion not nearly as accessible as it should be—especially in red states, there is much work to be done to change the public’s consciousness about the issue. This takes a lot of time, effort, and people, including the media, openly talking about abortion like it’s as normal as it is.

Obvious Childwill be released nationwide on June 27. You can find out where it’s playing here.

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