Most women who terminate a pregnancy are already mothers but we rarely see that on screen. Australian comedy The Letdown is the latest show to tackle the taboo
We got a beautiful email from a viewer last week, says Sarah Scheller, co-creator of the ABCs The Letdown. It said, That was my scenario. I cant believe I just saw it on screen.
Women who have abortions are only just now beginning to see themselves depicted on screens, but for a certain subgroup women who are already mothers when they decide to terminate the taboo is stronger than ever.
Its a taboo that Schellers low-key comedy was determined to quietly break.
The Letdown follows Audrey: a middle-class woman, played by Schellers collaborator Alison Bell, who is adjusting to life after childbirth with a clumsy, fumbling grace.
The show has been greeted warmly by critics and fans for its raw depiction of new motherhood, and in its second season Bell and Scheller wanted to dial up the darkness and realism.
But when Scheller began testing out a new plotline Audreys next pregnancy, terminated by abortion friends she told about it were horrified, saying, Oh no, dont do that!
It proved Schellers hunch: this story needed to be told, and without the trauma or fear that colours so many onscreen abortion tales.
Australian data thought scant shows the same trend: that women in their late 20s and 30s are far more likely to have abortions than teenagers; and that mothers, educated women and happily married couples get abortions too.
Perhaps we need a dose of dark humour to process and normalise taboo, yet commonplace experiences. In 2015, Lena Dunhams Girls had a decidedly chill non-revelation about an abortion. The morbidly funny web series Ctrl Alt Delete even relocates its zippy workplace comedy to an abortion clinic, with mothers receiving what doctors call an evacuation of the uterus.
Earlier this year, Netflixs UK sex-positive comedy Sex Education took a de-stigmatising view of abortion as a part of life, but it also doubled down on one lasting TV cliche: the disadvantaged, pink-haired teenager (played by Emma Mackey), walking into an abortion clinic without a boyfriend or stable family unit.