The Most Quietly Radical Way to Depict Abortion Onscreen

Photo: Byron Cohen/FX

On last night’s episode of You’re the Worst, we learned that Lindsay (Kether Donohue) planned to abort the fetus that she conceived by microwaving her estranged husband’s frozen semen and impregnating herself with a turkey baster. Or, as she tells Gretchen (Aya Cash) casually, over a hearty helping of pie: “I’m eating for two for the last time. Let’s go get this abobo!”

Historically, television hasn’t been great at depicting abortion, either avoiding the subject altogether or turning it into an overblown morality play. In recent years, though, we’ve seen women’s right to choose dramatized in more diverse ways, with Girls, Shameless, the Shondaland shows, and most recently Jane The Virgin depicting grown women confidently making decisions about their own bodies. But You’re the Worst — which has successfully tackled other often-stigmatized subjects, like mental illness — may have given us TV’s most radical depiction of abortion to date, simply by not making a big deal about it.

The actual abortion takes place offscreen; afterwards, Lindsay goes about business as usual, orders more pie, and the episode moves on to other plot lines. Of course, for some women, abortion is an extremely difficult decision with a painful aftermath. For others, it simply isn’t, and it’s these stories that we almost never hear about.

Last night’s episode was powerful, too, not just in treating abortion so matter-of-factly, but for flipping the usual script in which a woman finds herself through motherhood. This season, we’ve watched Lindsay repeatedly try to convince herself that having a baby is the key to happiness, despite how miserable domestic life makes her (in the season premiere, she stabs her husband in the abdomen with a kitchen knife). “Lindsay’s journey is toward her authentic self. And to get an abortion, she’s finally being responsible,” actress Kether Donohue tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It symbolizes the turning point where she’s doing something that is genuine and right for her, and not to please anybody else.”

In Lindsay’s case, the most important moment of personal growth this season comes not when she decides to settle down, but in realizing that she’s not ready to be a mother after all — at least, not in this moment, with this partner, with a turkey baster and some semen she heated up in the microwave.

The Most Quietly Radical Way to Depict Abortion Onscreen