By Page Forrest
As of the end of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, Rory Gilmore is a pregnant, single, liberal, 32-year-old woman with no stable employment. While the show didn’t continue past the announcement of her pregnancy, it’s hard not to imagine Rory at least discussing having an abortion, if not actually getting one. 2016 has seen positive strides in terms of how television portrays abortions, but we still have a lot of work to do. By not featuring abortions in a healthy, normalized context in media, we contribute to the stigmatization and misunderstanding of abortion as a medical procedure.
In 2014, the Sewanee Union Theatre scheduled a showing of the movie Obvious Child. However, the school received complaints from an unspecified source that “a comedy about a decision concerning abortion was not appropriate for the theatre, and especially not before election day when abortion is an important issue in TN,” according to Dean of Students Terry Papillon. What happens in Obvious Child? A woman discovers she is unexpectedly pregnant, doesn’t feel ready to care for a then-fetus, and has an abortion. There is no trauma, no blood, no consequences. Why? Because that’s the case with the vast majority of abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, less than .05% of all abortions performed within the first trimester result in complications that require hospital care. Women who have an abortion are no more likely to develop mental health problems than women who carry them to term. Considering that in 2011 nearly half of all pregnancies were unintended and forty percent of those unintended pregnancies were aborted, I’m not sure what’s inappropriate about the process. It’s a common, safe medical procedure. But because abortion rights were on the ballot in Tennessee during the 2014 midterms, unidentified student groups decided that the movie was inappropriate because it showed a normal abortion.
Flash forward to 2016, and it’s still considered news that Scandal featured the main character having a normal abortion that wasn’t overdramatized. Considering that slightly fewer than one in three women will have an abortion before she is 45, abortions have become the “women peeing” of the modern television show: We all know it happens, but it’s never shown.
Meanwhile, despite the ruling of Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, 579 US _ (2016) earlier this year, states continue to place undue burdens on women seeking abortions. Two laws that are particularly misguided (or malicious, depending on how much credit you’re willing to give the lawmakers), are the Texas Department of State Health Service’s Fetal Burial law, and Ohio’s “Heartbeat Bill.”
As of December 9, any woman in Texas who has an abortion or miscarriage will be required to bury the fetal remains. Cremation or burial, the costs of which would be forced upon the woman, would cost an average of $2000. In Whole Women’s Health, the Supreme Court ruled that any restrictions imposed upon abortion had to have proven health benefits for the woman seeking the abortion. Burying fetal remains has no health benefits whatsoever, places an undue burden with costs, and could actually be emotionally harmful to women who miscarried, forcing them to relive the loss of the fetus. Earlier this year, Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, then acting as Governor of Indiana, signed a bill into law requiring burial of fetal remains, without the cost being placed on the woman in question. That law was halted on June 30, ruled to be unconstitutional by a United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The Texas law will most likely not stand under the “undue burden” reasoning and the precedent of the failed Indiana law, but women will still be dealing with the costs imposed by the bill until the case can be heard.
In Ohio, women will learn by December 17 whether or not they can terminate a pregnancy after six weeks — before many women even know they’re pregnant. Known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” the passage was slipped into a popular bill regarding child abuse in order to force Governor Kasich to throw out the child abuse bill if he wanted to veto the section regarding abortion. The bill stipulates that abortions would be banned after a heartbeat can be detected, which is usually around six weeks, despite that Roe v. Wade, 410 US 113 (1973) held that women had the right to terminate any pregnancy unconditionally up to 24 weeks, the time of vitality. Most women aren’t aware that they’re pregnant until after they’ve missed two periods. Even if they suspect something after the first missed period, half of Ohio’s abortion clinics have been shut down by restrictive state laws within the past year. Getting an appointment at one of the remaining clinics can take weeks, making it nearly impossible for a woman to terminate a pregnancy within the Ohio state legislature’s proposed timeline. If Governor Kasich chooses to sign this bill into law, it’s unlikely it will be held constitutional, but the fact remains that women are still having their reproductive rights constantly trampled on by state governments.
What does this have to do with Rory Gilmore getting an abortion? So many of the above outlined laws still receive popular support because of misconceptions about the dangers or the frequency of abortions. The more abortion is portrayed on television in a healthy, normalized light, the more educated we become about a common procedure. And for those of you arguing that Rory wouldn’t have an abortion because it would mess with the cyclical nature of Gilmore Girls, read showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino’s words yourself: “There’s nothing harder in the world than being a parent, and if you are not equipped mentally, financially, emotionally, to take that on, you can’t do it because the consequences are ridiculous… I think that somebody as smart as Rory is going to take a step back and look at all the angles, and then make her decision, because it’s too important a job to make the wrong decision when it comes to kids.”
So yes, Rory Gilmore would get an abortion. In fact, getting an abortion might be the first normal thing that’s happened to her throughout the whole series.