Marriage, Abortion, and Coming Out

26 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2016 Last revised: 11 Jan 2017

See all articles by Scott Skinner-Thompson

Scott Skinner-Thompson

University of Colorado Law School

Sylvia Ann Law

New York University School of Law

Hugh Baran


Date Written: December 14, 2016


Over the past two decades, legal protections for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals have dramatically expanded. Simultaneously, meaningful access to reproductive choice for women has eroded. What accounts for the different trajectories of LGBTQ rights and reproductive rights?

This Piece argues that one explanation — or at least partial explanation — for the advance of LGBTQ rights relative to reproductive rights is the differing degree to which individuals have come out about their experiences with sexuality compared to coming out about experiences with unplanned pregnancies. In particular, as catalogued in this Piece, popular media portrayals of lesbian and gay individuals have proliferated, broadening the social and judicial understanding of minority sexualities. Meanwhile, popular media portrayals of women confronting unplanned pregnancies remain relatively sparse and, when they do appear, are often inaccurate and unrepresentative.

The correlation between positive media portrayals of lesbian and gay individuals and judicial recognition of protections for sexual minorities suggests that in order to halt the erosion of reproductive rights, it will be important to expose society to people exercising their right to abortion on the screen, in the office, and at the kitchen table.

Keywords: Abortion, Same-Sex Marriage, LGBT Rights, Coming out, Whole Woman's Health, Hellerstedt, Contact Hypothesis, Media

Suggested Citation

Skinner-Thompson, Scott and Law, Sylvia Ann and Baran, Hugh, Marriage, Abortion, and Coming Out (December 14, 2016). Columbia Law Review Online, Vol. 116, Dec. 2016; NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 16-22. Available at SSRN:

Scott Skinner-Thompson (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States
(303) 735-5294 (Phone)


Sylvia Ann Law

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Hugh Baran

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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