Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Humanities, PhD

Committee Chair

Omer-Sherman, Ranen

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Hanson, Stephen

Committee Member

Hanson, Stephen

Committee Member

Theriot, Nancy

Committee Member

Allen, Anne

Author's Keywords

medical humanities; abortion; stigma


This dissertation uses an interdisciplinary perspective and explores the topic of abortion through legal, medical, philosophical, and cultural perspectives, providing alternative ways to talk about abortion. In some states, especially since the overturning of Roe, abortion has become almost impossible to access, particularly in the South and Midwest. Abortion as a medical procedure is highly stigmatized and although it is a common procedure, it is taboo to discuss in American culture. Exploring how different media work to destigmatize abortion in the United States can lead to a deeper, more nuanced understanding of an overly politicized topic. The introduction is a brief overview of my activism within reproductive justice and the importance that activism has on this project. The first chapter of this dissertation highlights a number of legal rulings and explores how the language within those rulings allows for negative interpretations of abortion. It also discusses practical aspects to obtaining an abortion in America, demonstrating how legal rulings impact real-world access to abortion. The remaining three chapters focus on how different media incorporate and address the topic of abortion. In chapter two, I discuss abortion stigma and the importance of destigmatizing abortion in American culture. I then explore how social media is being used to destigmatize abortion, specifically through hashtag campaigns and Twitter activism such as #ShoutYourAbortion. Chapter three concentrates on a newer branch of medical humanities, graphic medicine, that uses comics and graphic novels as a way to discuss medical experiences. I focus on Abortion Eve (1973), Not Funny Haha (2015), and Comics for Choice (2018) as well as one public-facing comic to demonstrate how comics and graphic novels both provide information on abortion and also aid in destigmatizing the procedure by providing a more nuanced perspective. In chapter four, I explore how television, even fictionalized, can impact how individuals view abortion procedures and the importance of portraying more accurate representations of abortion. I use episodes from Jane the Virgin, Dear White People, Shrill, and Friday Night Lights to discuss how these episodes accurately portray abortion and ways that those fictionalized portrayals can be improved to better address abortion stigma.