Reproductive Rights and Modern Film: Five Women, Six Movies and the Politics of Abortion

28 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2020

Date Written: 2011


This paper considers the portrayal of reproductive rights on modern film by examining the fundamental messages and depiction of heroines and lead characters in the feature films Vera Drake (2004) Palindromes (2004), Juno (2007), Revolutionary Road (2008), and Citizen Ruth (1996), as well as the documentary 12th and Delaware (2010).

What do the characters of Vera, Aviva, Juno, Ruth and April reveal about attitudes toward, and the state of reproductive rights? Is abortion viewed as moral or ethical or neither? What are the cultural, social and political milieu, as well as specific human circumstances and sexual politics, that surround, constrain or empower the women in these films? Is their portrayal positive, negative, or nuanced and complex? Should abortion be part of women’s reproductive rights, and thus, a civil right, and if not, what are the physical, psychological and legal consequences for women? Finally, what, if anything, do these portrayals reveal about Americans' attitudes toward reproductive rights, abortion, and the women faced with difficult choices, health risks, and dire economic circumstances?

Keywords: abortion, film, politics, popular culture, pro-choice, pro-life, abortion rights, Vera Drake, Palindromes, Juno, 12th & Delaware, Revolutionary Road, Citizen Ruth

Suggested Citation

Yenerall, Kevan, Reproductive Rights and Modern Film: Five Women, Six Movies and the Politics of Abortion (2011). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Kevan Yenerall (Contact Author)

Clarion University ( email )

840 Wood Street

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