Mindy Kaling: Is Abortion ‘Too Demeaning’ For Sitcoms?

Mindy Kaling, the star and creator of The Mindy Kaling Project, was on the cover of Flare magazine to promote the upcoming season of her Fox sitcom. In the feature, it was brought up that Kaling has no plans to cover abortion even though the show largely takes place at a OB-GYN practice.

At the time, Kaling said covering abortion“would be demeaning to the topic to talk about it in a half-hour sitcom.”

Apparently Mindy never saw the Thanksgiving episode of the 1994 sitcom Roseanne, where abortion was used as a joke.

The exchange happened during a discussion between Roseanne, Beverly, Nana Mary, Becky, and Jackie.

Nana Mary: You know, I had two abortions when I was young.

Beverly Harris: Mother! You what?

Nana Mary: Yeah.

Jackie Harris: You had two abortions, Nana Mary? That must’ve been so hard.

Nana Mary: Well it was pretty tough in those days, the laws were very strict. I had to go to some terrible place way out on the south side of Chicago. That was the first time so the second time I went to Mexico… or was that to get wool?

After sites like Jezebel raised question over her comments, Mindy Kaling gave it a second thought and spoke to The Huffington Post regarding her stance on covering abortion through sitcoms.

“When I made the comment, I think that I misspoke… I said that I thought it would demean the issue of abortion to talk about it on sitcom,” said Kaling.

She continued, “What I should’ve said was my sitcom… Many incredible shows have dealt with in it in a way that I really admire. ‘Roseanne’ is one of them.”

“It doesn’t strike me as the funniest of areas. My show is not about gynecological issues. It’s like how The Office wasn’t really about paper. It’s hard to say those things and not sound like I’m skirting the issue, but, at the same time, our show from the get-go hasn’t made its centerpiece to focus on political issues.”

That said, the real issue at the center of Mindy’s comments weren’t addressed during her Huff Post chat. It’s not being suggested that Mindy uses abortion as a comedic device like other sitcoms have in the past. At the same time, it’s not suggested that Mindy should turn her show into an after school special.

Herein lies the issue — by not mentioning abortion in passing, this still treats the subject as a secretive issue that women should be ashamed to openly talk about. It also undermines the fact that abortion is an experience that some women go through. If we’re not talking about it, does it not exist?

As Merritt Tierce wrote in her New York Times piece, “We have to stop categorizing abortions as justified or unjustified. The best thing you can do if you support reproductive rights is to force people to realize that abortion is common, and the most common abortion is a five-to-15-minute procedure elected early in the first trimester by someone who doesn’t want to be pregnant or have a child.”

Tierce continued, “It’s our job to say it’s O.K. if that’s the end of the story. It’s O.K. if it’s boring or not traumatic or if you don’t even know what it was.”

[Image via Fox Broadcasting Co.]