NBC Exec on the Word 'Abortion': We Don't Have an 'Iron-Clad Policy'

Today in gossip about shows you loved in the 90s: In a discussion about how NBC handles abortion on its network, Bob Greenblatt – a former executive at Fox and now head of NBC – revealed that Fox shut down a plot line on Party of Five that would seen Neve Campbell's character Julia have an abortion.


Greenblatt's comments came during a Television Critics Association panel this past weekend as he was explaining why NBC refused to air an ad for Obvious Child. According to the Hollywood Reporter, he said that the network doesn't have an "iron-clad policy" about whether the word is allowed and that this particular decision was left up to the sales team:

"The sales group chose the path of least resistance. They chose the ad that did not have [the word abortion in] it."


"I don't know that it's been off-limits, but I think it's one of those hot-button issues that people are still afraid of for obvious reasons," he added. NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke said, "We would not avoid the issue but would see that it is handled appropriately."

But back to Party of Five (a sentence I never thought I'd write). During season two, Julia finds out she's pregnant and tells her older brother Charlie (played by Matthew Fox). He shares with her his story about his college girlfriend having an abortion, though her other brother Bailey's girlfriend Sarah tells Julia if her mom had had an abortion, she wouldn't be born. Julia plans to go get one, but has a miscarriage before she can. Back then, Greenblatt said the writers wanted Julia to actually go through with it:

"It was a real fight internally whether or not we could tell that story, and she lost the baby sort of on the way to get the abortion," Greenblatt continued, putting air quotes around the word lost. "I thought [that was] a real cop-out. And that was 20 years ago. I don't think we cop out like that anymore. But I still think writers and producers are nervous about it because it really does divide people."

So the writers and producers are nervous about writing about abortion because it divides people or because they know their networks are worried that it divides people?

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


unreliable narrator

I have to say, I'm of two minds about the notion of "convenient miscarriage." On one hand, no one should get bent out of shape if a character in a TV show has an abortion, because it is an extremely common thing that happens every day. To instead show a character as not wanting the pregnancy and conveniently having a miscarriage to avoid upsetting advertisers is a cop-out. But let's also show women having miscarriages as often as they do in real life, whether they are wanted pregnancies or not, because that would take away so much of the stigma of it. More pregnancies end in miscarriage than end in abortion.