One of the topics woven into the 4th season of AMC’s Mad Men, a cable tv show set in the 1960s, has been abortion. It started in August with a tip of the hat: According to Lauren Bans at Slate:

Joan is sitting in a hospital gown in her doctor’s office, cool and calm as ever, asking her Doc if her two past abortions (“procedures”) will affect her fertility….

Joan seems pretty damn self-possessed and matter-of-fact about the whole matter. Ironically enough, a medical conversation about abortion without overtones of despair and emotional upheaval seems harder to come by now in this day and age when the procedure is actually legal.

This revelation about Joan’s past also brings the abortion-on-TV count this year up to two (… Friday Night Lights…), which is basically bonafide abortion bonanza in entertainment terms.  No more terribly convenient miscarriages… No “schmabortion” jokes necessary on the small screen…. Let’s hope the trend extends to movies.

Joan is office manager at a fictional ad agency that is the setting for Mad Men. But Joan is also a newlywed who wants a baby. “Might infertility be in her future?” speculates the New York Post.

Abortion = infertility is a pro-life talking point, but Joan’s doctor assures her the reproductive plumbing is still working, which appeals to pro-abort Amanda Marcotte at RH Reality Check:

In your usual overly dramatic Hollywood fare, this would have been an occasion for raising the stakes by implying that Joan was subject to a mythical back alley butcher who left her infertile for life.  But instead, the doctor shrugs and suggests that the odds are that the midwife did a good job, and certainly everything that he could see was in good working order.  He points out that she got pregnant after the first abortion, and so he has every reason to believe she’s fine.

Turns out Joan is having an affair with boss Roger while husband Greg is away in Viet Nam. In a later episode Joan indeed finds out her doctor was right, she can still get pregnant. But this baby is the wrong guy’s. “Roger could barely conceal how desperately he wanted Joan to get an abortion,” reported the New York Times. “This is clearly not the first time Roger has dealt with a mistress who requires a ‘rabbit test.’” Of course. Sexual exploitation and coercion, 2 more pro-life talking points.

And it appears Joan does, which again pleases Marcotte, but for a oddly different reason: Joan gets her clandestine abortion at an upstanding doctor’s office, not shady back alley mill. Marcotte is sick of the ruse:

Believe it or not, this was historically accurate.  In the sixties, many doctors performed abortions for their regular patients and charted them as something else.  If you got an abortion from someone who wasn’t your regular doctor, odds are that it was still a safe abortion.

And, as I’ve written about before, the myth of the back alley butcher is mostly inaccurate. It’s tempting for pro-choicers to invoke it in an attempt to remind people of the high human cost of banning abortion, but in the end, portraying abortion providers as “butchers” mostly helps the anti-choice cause by stigmatizing the compassionate, hard-working people who have helped women in need, whether or not that help was legal.

But this talking point is a pro-abort staple: Get rid of legalized abortion and return to the back alley days where thousands of women die.

Shocker, I agree with Amanda here. This talking point is in large part a ruse, a fear tactic. Amanda’s thoughts reveal distension in the ranks.

But she’ll never get everyone in line here.  For instance, the Burn Down Blog couldn’t resist posting the infamous photo of Gerri Santoro, about which I’ve discussed previously, in relation to Joan’s illegal abortions.

But back to Joan’s 3rd abortion. It turns out Mad Men pulls a fast one, as revealed in the October 17 season finale. Joan didn’t get one after all. And this royally ticks off Marcotte, desperate for abortion affirmation:

The main problem with the episode is that it, frankly, sucked.  Besides the abortion cop-out*…

[D]espite the abortion fakeout,** I thought the plot developments were solid….

*I can’t even bear to think about it.  I can’t believe they whipped out the oldest cliche in the book.  On TV, 99% of women who enter abortion clinics have a change of heart and leave.  In reality, I’m guessing the numbers are reversed.

**Seriously?  Et tu, “Mad Men”?  You put so much effort into capturing how people really are and were… and suddenly you get into picking the fan service cliche about abortion?  And believe you and me, it was fan service.  The folks at the TWOP [Television Without Pity] forums were peeing themselves in delight that Joan gets to have a baby.  It was picking the easy over the real, and on a show that’s batting nearly 1000 in the other direction.

So Marcotte is bitterly disappointed that a tv character didn’t kill her baby. Exposure yet again that in reality the other side isn’t “pro-choice” but actually pro-abortion.

And mass media’s lesson here is, once again, for the most part nice girls don’t get abortions. There was no way Mad Men’s writers would let Joan get a 3rd one. I’m surprised Amanda didn’t see this coming. Her ideology clouds her grasp on the reality Mad Men execs understood: Americans innately dislike abortion.

Also, come on, this is a much better story line. Abortion stops story lines.

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