Sympathetic Abortion Film Ads Shunned by NBC

By Donald A. Collins | 23 June 2014
Church and State

Jenny Slate stars in the independent film Obvious Child, which deals with the subject of abortion. (Credit: Mingle Media TV / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0)

The battle against the religious ideologues who oppose abortion choice continues. And their influence is felt not only in the myriad of legal restrictions various mainly Catholic sponsored entities have gotten rammed through legislatures and courts.

Back in 1991, the NGO I founded in 1976, International Services Assistance Fund, co-produced a TV quality 22 minute film called “Whose Choice?” which the brave, straight thinking Ted Turner arranged to broadcast on September 21, 1992 in prime time on his then independent Turner Broadcast System (TBS). Other outlets such as PBS and several of its affiliates my colleagues and I contacted then refused to run it because of its forthright treatment of the abortion issue, arguing for all women’s right to choose not to have a baby.

ISAF just made a new edition of that DVD which you can obtain from this web site. Admittedly dated, the purpose for reissuing this 3rd version of “Whose Choice?” was simply to show the historical urgency that attended those times, still blocked and attacked over 40 years after the Roe v Wade decision in 1973.

Now a modern update movie, Obvious Child, has been refused an ad airing by NBC because it mentions the word “abortion”! Who made that decision? Someone who takes orders from the Vatican?

Since there are over 40 million abortions every year worldwide, that word hardly seems to fall into the unmentionable category. Most people now believe that the only proper criteria for considering such services is (1) are they done with safety and (2) are they available when needed! Fortunately, many US women are no longer in the place they were when “Whose Choice?” was made, but too many still are.

Wikipedia tells us that

Obvious Child is an American romantic comedy film written and directed by Gillian Robespierre (based on her 2009 short film) in her directorial debut. The film stars Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann and David Cross. The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival as part of its NEXT section and was picked up by A24 for a U.S. release. It won the Red Crown Producer’s Award (including $10,000 grant) at the festival.

Brooklyn comedian Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) gets dumped, fired and pregnant just in time for the worst/best Valentine’s Day of her life. Forever nudged by her parents to make better choices, Donna’s forced to do just that when a one-night stand leads to a difficult decision over abortion that does and does not define the rest of her life. Though confident in her choice, Donna must gain the confidence to believe in her talent, herself, and the best in those around her, especially one surprisingly decent guy (Jake Lacy) who just might make this the worst/best Valentine’s Day ever.

The NY Post reports

NBC turned down ads for the new movie “Obvious Child” because it deals with abortion, sources tell Page Six.

The A24 Films release stars former “SNL” star Jenny Slate as a Brooklyn comic who gets pregnant after a one-night stand and elects to have an abortion.

Other networks “had no problem airing an ad that included the word ‘abortion’ in it,” a source said, adding the film’s distributor “wasn’t trying to purchase ads during ‘Today’ or daytime,” but “during ‘SNL’ ” and primetime sitcoms.

A source close to NBC denied the claim, saying the network was given a rough cut of a trailer, but after “feedback” was given, a final spot wasn’t submitted.

But a different source countered that NBC’s “feedback” was that the subject matter was inappropriate for viewers, and to cut the word abortion.

An NBC rep told us, “No final spots were submitted to NBC … and NBC broadcast advertising sales was never contacted about a media buy … for spots related to this movie. Moreover, initial feedback from our broadcast standards group did not include any suggestion to remove a specific word.”

A rep for the film had no comment.

Web site Jezebel reported that the word “abort” was also bleeped from a comedian’s routine on the network’s “Last Comic Standing” Thursday night.

Sad there is still much resistance to honest efforts to bring the treatment of the contentious abortion issue in the USA to full mature discussion. Our goal must continue to be gaining for all women who wish to have an abortion full access to safe services. Key to finally obtaining that access will be solid reporting about its reality, which Obvious Child and Whose Choice? so beautifully achieve. So, despite the progress grudgingly gained since 1973 or even since 1992 when ISAF’s forthright effort was bravely aired by Ted Turner, many poor young women find safely, readily available abortion services hard to get.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

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