CFP: Abortion in International Popular Culture

Abortion in International Popular Culture–Soliciting Abstracts

Access to a safe and legal abortion is a right women have been fighting for around the globe for decades, and in recent years, laws that have made access to abortion easier have begun to align with majority support. When the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, countries that had recently passed laws easing restrictions on abortion looked to the U.S. with concern and even fear. Some countries, such as France, quickly moved to strengthen national protection of abortion rights to ensure that long-established rights would not be removed by a radical minority. In other countries, such as Ireland, Argentina, and Colombia, recent victories for reproductive justice are being reflected in popular culture as people feel more empowered to share their stories.

 Globally, representation of abortion both mirrors and departs from depictions in American popular culture. For example, the 2021 French film L’Événement (Happening), which offers a harrowing depiction of abortion, won numerous awards, including the Venice International Film Festival’s Golden Lion. The film, based on the 2000 autobiographical novel by Annie Ernaux, winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize for Literature, is set in the 1960s, but director Audrey Diwan explained, “I wanted to make a story that can be seen as a nowadays story, because somewhere in the world, it’s always true. When I started writing it, I could have never imagined that it would be accurate in the United States.” The Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) database catalogs onscreen representations of abortion, including those of international series widely available through streaming services such as Netflix. As abortion storylines become more common in television, film, and literature, it remains to be seen whether writers and directors will use their spheres of influence to protest abortion restrictions and to offer more accurate, diverse narratives about who seeks abortions and why.

This collection will look to popular culture outside the United States to demonstrate how important these narratives can be in influencing cultural understanding and promoting the protection of reproductive rights. Comparative analyses are also welcome. We are currently accepting proposals for essays that analyze depictions of abortion from the last 25 years in film, television, literature, theater, music, and podcasts.

Underlying questions of the project include but are not limited to the following:

How can popular culture contribute to the destigmatization of abortion internationally?

How are cross-cultural abortion narratives similar and different?

How can popular culture correct misinformation and misunderstanding about abortion?

How have abortion narratives changed in the last 25 years?

To what extent might the entertainment industry influence public policy pertaining to abortion rights?

How is what is happening in the United States threatening abortion access in other countries?

Are current abortion narratives adequately showing the obstacles and barriers to abortion experienced by many women?

Submission Information: Submit proposals of 300-500 words by May 15 to Kelli Maloy at and Brenda Boudreau at Abstracts should outline the author’s theoretical framework and identify the goals of the essay. Complete essays of 8,000-10,000 words will be due by  November 30, 2023..

About the Editors

Kelli Maloy is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. Her publications and areas of research include contemporary writing by Irish women and topics in popular culture.

Brenda Boudreau is a Professor and the James M. Hammil Chair of English at McKendree University. She has published on a wide range of film and television series.  She serves on the Popular Culture Association Board and currently serves as the VP of Awards.

deadline for submissions:
May 15, 2023
full name / name of organization:
Brenda Boudreau