1972 November 14

“Maude’s Dilemma:” An Abortion on a TV Sitcom


Abortion was the topic on the popular television sitcom Maude, starring Bea Arthur.  In the show, Maude, age 47, found herself pregnant and decided to terminate the pregnancy through an abortion. New York State had liberalized its abortion law in 1970 (see April 11, 1970 and July 1, 1970), and thus abortion was legal in the state where the show was set.

Remarkably, there was no great controversy over the episode. Abortion was also the topic the following week, on November 21, 1972. Controversy did not occur until Maude was broadcast in reruns after Roe v Wade, decided on January 22, 1973.

Watch the show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxy0DTMXhwY

Learn more about sex and television: Elana Levine, Wallowing in Sex: The New Sexual Culture of 1970s American Television (2007)

Find a timeline on the history of abortion here.

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