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*This was first published on Exhale.*

The characters on the television drama Parenthood experience issues many families face: a mother going through cancer, a child struggling to adjust to his adopted family, and a brother learning the intricacies of his interracial family. The emotion and connection viewers feel to the extended Braverman clan is what makes Parenthood such an addictive series to watch.

On January 8, 2013, in an episode titled “Small Victories,” Parenthood joined a  handful of TV series (such as Maude, Friday Night Lights andDeGrassi:The Next Generation) to feature a story about a personal experience with abortion. Before it even aired, Parenthood warned its viewers by Twitter to: “have your tissues handy.”

Sarah Watson is co-executive producer for Parenthood and was the writer of “Small Victories.” Sarah is known for her ability to tackle tough topics with humanity and empathy, including an episode earlier this season about the N-word. “It’s hard,” Ms. Watson says “to write about big, weighty issues [like racism or abortion] with experiences that are not your own. It requires incredible care. They are challenging stories as a writer” she revealed in a recent interview. And, she affirms that she’s really satisfied with how they both turned out. (more…)

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*This was first published on Exhale.*

Tonight, on NBC’s hit show Parenthood, teenage character Amy, the girlfriend of Drew (the son of Lauren Graham’s character, Sarah Braverman) has an abortion. Earlier in the series, viewers watched these two young people decide to have sex with each other, both for the first time.

The character Amy is not alone. Even though we don’t see personal experiences with abortion portrayed very often on TV or in the movies, abortion is incredibly common. Over a third of women in America will have one by the time they are 45; and women are talking more openly about their abortions.

Chances are you know someone like Amy or Drew. Or, you know a parent like Sarah who is dealing with the abortion of a son or daughter. It’s still rare to talk with the people in our lives about an abortion experience, so if someone you love tells you that they’ve had one, it’s important to show you care. (more…)

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*This was originally posted on the blog Exhale is Pro-Voice*

On Friday, June 17th, Exhale Executive Director Aspen Baker participated in a panel presentation at Netroots Nation entitled “FTW: Social Networks, Down & Dirty for Change.” Assembled by 16 & Loved architect Deanna Zandt, the panel also included Cheryl Contee from Fission Strategy, Anita Jackson from Moms Rising, and Rachel LaBruyere from Mobile Commons and explored case studied of social media successes. Aspen Baker presented the 16 & Loved campaign to a standing-room only crowd, exploring campaign goals, media reaction, and lessons learned. You can watch the whole panel discussion below [a new browser window will open]:

Panel attendees also helped generate quite a bit of buzz on social media about the presentation while it was happening, and you can read some of their Tweets below:

Thank you to all who attended and helped us grow the conversation through social media and beyond! If you’re not already following Exhale on Twitter and Facebook, we hope you’ll join us there in the Pro-Voice

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I Was Wrong

“Abortion is not the go-to gag for a laugh,” I wrote last year in what I thought was an edge-pushing issue of Our Truths-Nuestras Verdades, Exhale’s bilingual abortion zine. After past issues on such heady topics as stigma, family, pregnancy and feelings about the fetus, Exhale decided it was time to branch out. We chose humor.

At the time, we had been laughing about, “smashmortion,” kind of, and had laughed, maybe, with Sarah Silverman. We didn’t imagine a censored Family Guy episode or that Cartman would fall in love with abortion.

I thought it was safe to say that abortion was not the center of very many jokes. I am here to say: I was wrong.

Not only is abortion funny, it is quickly becoming the new go-to-gag for a laugh.

And, herein lies the problem. Abortion humor, like abortion politics, seems to have nothing to do with the actual women who have had them. It’s like the weird dancing baby of Ally McBeal or Tom Delay shaking his rump on Dancing with the Stars. Abortion humor feels like a very strange, alternate universe where it’s normal to have a pet robot and drink your food.

Abortion humor treats abortion as if it’s something you buy at the seedy store with blacked out windows at the end of the dark ally and carried stealthily home only for you to hide it in the back of your pantry beside your secret stash of chocolate and vodka, hoping that no one will ever find it and know its yours.

But that’s not abortion. Abortion is an often emotional experience that involves a physically invasive medical procedure that happens inside a woman’s body and which, if done correctly, removes a growing fetus that would otherwise become a baby.

Abortion is not that funny. But, the women who have them certainly can be!

In our Humor issue, we did not want to make abortion something to laugh at. We wanted to find out what made women laugh about their own experiences. We wanted to know what they found funny.

A woman thought it was funny that after telling her boyfriend she was pregnant, he said: “Man, I didn’t really think I could get anyone pregnant because I’ve done so many drugs.” Another woman laughed that while she was waiting nervously in stirrups for her procedure to begin, a nurse came in and said: “your socks match your eyes.” When she founded out that after her abortion that her “dude wanted a receipt,” a woman found humor in the ridiculous.

Instead of abortion, Our Truths-Nuestras Verdades made women’s voices and stories the centerpiece of abortion humor. We weren’t laughing at them. We are still laughing with them.

But next time, I’m going to use all the money we spent on printing and mailing to go after Chelsea Handler or Margaret Cho and entice them with cookies (or sex toys) in exchange for a Funny or Die abortion video.

That should be really funny.

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Special Agent Emily Prentiss is contacted by a childhood friend and told that another childhood friend recently died. It smells of foulplay. Prentiss gets leeway to explore the case and eventually brings the rest of the team along. It turns out that when she was 15 she got pregnant and this childhood friend (the one that is now dead) had helped her access an abortion. He, and the rest of his family, also happened to be incredibly religious. Her abortion caused him to start questioning his faith, to the disapproval of his parents and community. From the way they tell the story, it basically sounds like his role in her abortion caused him to go down the wrong path, where he turns into a drug addict with all kinds of problems…eventually leading to his death through EXORCISM! That’s right. A priest kills him, using exorcism, and goes on to kill – or attempt to kill – 3 more of this guys friends. I still don’t understand why. But, it certainly seemed like everyone in the family all blamed his problems and his eventual death on his role with helping a 15-year old Prentiss get an abortion. And because he told her to hold her head high and not be ashamed.

Her fault:

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Abortion on TV: Law & Order

A homophobic doctor/researcher is looking for gay gene so parents can terminate pregnancies if gene is detected in fetus. Pregnant woman undergoes research, not knowing the intent, her gay brother-in-law finds out about the study and plants bomb, killing doctor and injuring sister in law who ends up in a coma. Husband of pregnant women in coma decides to abort his baby because it has gay gene. Gay brother in law confesses to bomb, to prevent his gay nelaw-and-orderphew from being aborted. Wow.

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Abortion on TV: Law and Order CI

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Ob/Gyn doctors is brutally murdered and the scene “staged” (i.e., speculum in his mouth) and the first question from the detectives – does he provide abortions? The answer, yes, but only to regular customers and they operate below the radar. Still, one regular customer, a married women with a few kids already finds out her unborn son has spina bifida and terminates. Husband finds out and gets in yelling match with doc. Is he the one that killed him? In interviews with the parents, woman talks about how she “agonized” over decision and didn’t consultant husband. Husband talks about how wife killed his son. Turns out the murder has nothing to do with abortion, and everything to do with sperm donations. You have to see it to understand.

I think the bummer of this episode was that it was very stereotypical & unfair about men’s roles in abortion – that they aren’t consulted, that they see women as killers, and that they want their baby, especially sons, at all costs. I just don’t think this is the truth. Most of the men that call Exhale are really working on being the best people they can be – being the best source of support they know how, being as honest and gentle with themselves about how they feel, including sadness, and wanting to support their partners.

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