Lena Dunham slams NBC for refusing to air an ad with the word ‘abortion’


There’s a little indie movie called Obvious Child that’s been getting a lot of positive reviews and praise from the feminist blogs. It stars Jenny Slate (seen in the header image), known for The Kroll Show and a lot of TV work, as a stand-up comedienne who has a one-night stand with a guy, gets pregnant and decides to have an abortion. It’s being billed as unconventional rom-com. Here’s the trailer:

So, yeah, it’s not a Disney movie, but it’s not like OMG ABORTION POLITICS either. It seems like a quirky, interesting little movie. Producers tried to get the teaser trailer ad on NBC, and NBC rejected it. You know why? Because the teaser trailer included the word “abortion”. Which, just FYI, is still a constitutionally protected right that every woman in America has, despite the OMG Abortion Politics. Planned Parenthood has gotten involved, as has Lena Dunham:

After NBC refused to air an ad for new movie “Obvious Child” because it included the word “abortion,” the network is facing heat from Planned Parenthood and Lena Dunham. The “Girls” star tweeted, “NBC refuses to air the trailer for Obvious Child because it mentions abortion and that’s not okay. #StoptheStigma.”

She linked to a Planned Parenthood petition “urging the network to clarify its standards.”

Page Six exclusively reported last week that NBC wouldn’t accept an ad for the film starring Jenny Slate, of Comedy Central’s “Kroll Show,” and informed distributor A24 Films that the subject matter was inappropriate for its audience. A source says the network then suggested it would accept shorter, 15-second spots if the word “abortion” was axed.

The comedy follows a single Brooklyn woman coping with an unwanted pregnancy after a one-night stand. NBC denied it rejected the ad by stating: “No final spots were submitted to NBC broadcast standards.”

But a source insisted that “final spots” were never submitted because NBC’s “feedback” said the ads were inappropriate. The trailer includes Slate nervously gearing herself up in front of a mirror to confront her paramour saying, “Remember from before when we did sex to each other? I’m having your abortion. Do you want to share a dessert?”

[From Page Six]

I really don’t understand. Ad money is ad money. It’s not like the producers were looking for FREE advertising for their abortion comedy. They wanted to pay to put an ad on a network that merely included the word “abortion” and that was somehow rejected? Yeah. I agree with Lena and Planned Parenthood. This is BS.


Photos courtesy of WENN.

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91 Responses to “Lena Dunham slams NBC for refusing to air an ad with the word ‘abortion’”

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  1. Kiddo says:

    Holy crap, I just looked at their line-up of shows. Are we sure ANYONE would have seen this ad anyway?

  2. Lori says:

    The trailer looks good. I would watch this movie.

  3. k miss says:

    But, but, ‘freedom of speech!’ scream the right. Oh, jk.

    • Monica says:

      WTF? What are you talking about? NBC can refuse to play anything they think might be bad for the network – aka lose viewers (which lets face it, they would..), that’s their freedom as a private, for profit company. I’m not sure where you’re getting the “freedom of speech” thing here… You’re getting too political.

      • k miss says:

        Yeah yeah, I know. I was just thinking back to the Duck Dynasty fiasco when A&E stopped airing that show and everyone started screaming, but ‘freedom of speech’. Same thing, just reversed. Anywhoodle…just a comment, that’s why I included the jk. That’s still shorthand for just kidding, right?

  4. in_theory says:

    They have a problem with even mentioning abortion while airing a show like Hannibal? Really?

  5. lisa says:

    my god that blue dress looks like some plastic material for a beach chair

  6. BW says:

    So they want the word “abortion” removed from the ad? Then someone who’s bothered by abortion might see the movie and be pissed off that they weren’t informed of the subject matter first. Better to have the word in the ad, methinks.

  7. QQ says:

    Love Jenny Slate in Kroll show.. This is absurd and ridiculous is not like they refused to air Knocked up ads or like the Today Show doesnt STAY inviting us to the vaginas and cervix ( and sometimes prostates!) of Celebs, their anchors, and random people, shit if I recall last six months they showed a LIVE insemination, and like a whole morning of live births and the whole thing was super invasive and gross

  8. mrs. says:

    I could never watch this movie and I’ve had an abortion. I don’t find anything funny about it. It was a decision I made when I was younger and I’m still not sure it was the right one. Abortion should not be taken lightly, glamorized or made to seem like no big deal. IMO. I think it is a disservice to young women who may face this decision one day to make it seem like a funny no big deal thing when they may be scarred or hurt or regret it for the rest of their lives. I understand that we have the right to choose in this country and I was one who made a choice but I just don’t think it’s a choice to make into comedy. Ok bye.

    • joy says:

      I’m sure I’ll be in the minority on here but I agree with you. It’s something that has to happen at times, but it’s nothing to be at the center of a rom Com. And yes I consider myself a feminist but for the love. There’s a stigma because it’s a hard awful decision. Rather than pushing how awesome and hilarious abortion is, people like Lena should be stressing safe sex and birth control. No don’t stone women who have to do it but don’t degrade them by making what they went through a light hearted thing.

    • eliza says:

      Excellent post and I agree with everything you said.

    • beatrix says:

      Sure, you made some points. At the same time, I do not think that we should shy away from accepting the reality of the decision as an actuality. We should see that stigmatizing the women who’ve had an abortion as well as stigmatizing the word itself does no favors to normalizing the fact of the matter and accepting that for some people, this option still stands as the best choice for the continuity of their lives, despite the ethical difficulties involved that are actually variant to each individual.

      • Bear says:

        Why is it my job to normalize it and why not someone else’s job to get on the pill, use a condom in the day of AIDS, take a Plan B or …? Pick a million options. This is not sisterhood of the traveling womb. Abortion is not my problem. I’ve had lot of sex and been responsible about it, and if that day comes that my 2 modes of BC fail then Oh well. It’s not anyone else’s problem or business but mine.

      • delorb says:


        Not everyone can afford to pay for the pill. Not everyone is in a relationship where they can insist the guy wear a condom. Not everyone has been given the same information on how to prevent pregnancy. And not everyone lives close to or has access to affordable healthcare. The reasons women have gotten abortions run the gamut, just as the reasons for getting pregnant. Sadly we aren’t all equal.

      • enya says:

        Hear, hear, delorb. Well said.

    • Marigold says:

      You are certainly entitled to your feelings about abortions but believe it or not, others who have gotten abortions *do* take it lightly. There is no one right way to feel about the subject. For some women, it is an easy decision, for others it is not. And it isn’t handled with any disrespect in this movie. It’s handled true to the character, which for some people is going to be quite realistic. The subject of abortion isn’t what makes this movie a comedy. It’s the entire story, of which abortion plays a part.

      • QQ says:

        I agree with you Marigold …Ive had one not particularly young either, it simply is not something I want and The biggest ass surprised ever to me since Im known as the BC Nazi amongst my gf and deathly afraid of this type of thing….and FOR ME it was both A No Brainer and also not life altering… If anything the word “Relief” comes to mind… Like you said, there isnt a Protocol of feels about this to be followed, I also feel like Abortions are an option like any other and they need to be demystified and done away with all the shame by proxy associated with it

      • enya says:

        I did when I was 26 and I’ve never been sorry for a minute.

    • Nemesis says:

      I totally agree with you. 8 years ago I made the same difficult decision as you. At that time in my life it was probably for the best. But not a day goes by that I don’t wonder what if….

    • Algernon says:

      It’s actually handled very well in the movie. Obvious Child isn’t really a “rom-com” in that it’s a laugh out loud delight! It’s just a movie that has some very funny parts that includes a romantic subplot, so that’s what the ad people called it, but it’s really more of a dramedy.

      Having actually seen it, I thought they handled the subject matter very well. It’s clear from the beginning that Donna, Jenny Slate’s character, does not have her sh-t together. She doesn’t feel able to cope with a child, so she makes a choice, as is her right. They don’t glorify anything about it, she is shown being scared and nervous, but also sure of herself and confident. Like most people in the world, she’s capable of feeling many things at once. If there’s any preaching happening in the movie, it’s just the message that having an abortion does not make a woman a monster, and it’s not the end of her life. The movie follows Donna during a seminal moment in her life, but it’s not something that will necessarily define her forever.

      I haven’t had to make the choice some of you had, and I respect saying, “Having been there, I don’t want to go back.” But don’t judge a movie you haven’t seen. It’s not for you, and that’s okay, but it might be worthwhile for others, which is also okay.

    • InvaderTak says:

      I totally agree with you. Its not funny. Even if the decision was easy for you, it wasn’t easy for all. Laughing about something that is so painful for so many isn’t right.

      • Marigold says:

        Well, then let’s do away with all movies that dare have laughter during hard times. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen movies about death and illness and war and every other perceived difficult thing ever where people laughed and told jokes. That’s life. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to watch it. But saying it should be censored because it might hurt some feelings is ridiculous.

      • Truthtful says:

        So we should stop laughing from heartache, embarrassing moments in life, puberty, aging, etc… because all these different stages in life are lived differently by people, ALL for some remembering High school is blissful for others it’s extremely painful,… do you suggest we should stop making and promoting high school movies?…. because no matter the topic it’s THIS ambivalent,!

    • NorthernGirl_20 says:

      I agree also, I do not think it is a good subject for a “Rom-Com” and will not be watching this movie.

    • claire says:

      @Mrs: I feel ya. But in this case, I’ll wait and see how it’s actually treated in the movie before making any judgment. It’s really hard to know from just a trailer.

      My second challenge with this film will be trying to not view Jenny as MonaLisa Sapperstein the whole time.

    • Bucky says:

      I think they’re just trying to portray one woman’s experience. There is no universal abortion experience, and it gets painted with the tragic guilt brush all the time. This is just showing an alternate story. For some people, it isn’t a gut-wrenching decision. For some, it is. All reactions are valid.

    • kri says:

      @Mrs. I am sorry that you are still torn over the decision you made, and no one here would take abortion lightly-the women on this board (and men) are thoughtful and respectful when it comes to heavy topics like this. I think the thing to focus on is that you had a choice. We are all cognizant of the fact that it is one of the most difficult things a woman may have to face. but in this country, it is our right and our reality. It is important that it is freely discussed and mentioned in our media in any form. It may not be the most tasteful way, but they should still be allowed to say it..

    • Jesse4 says:

      So sorry for what you went through. And I totally agree with you.

    • MRS. says:

      Like I said before this is just my opinion coming from my experience and a movie being touted as a rom com about abortion just doesn’t sit well with me. I am in total agreement that we are far from where we need to be in the conversation and the stigma of it all but do we have to go in this direction? Someone said not to judge it before I’ve seen it but isn’t that what we do when we choose what we want to watch everyday? I base what movies I want to watch on weather or not the subject matter or trailers look interesting to me and this trailer is telling me that it is a comedy, yes that word is used, about abortion. This movie is getting a lot of attention because of the abortion in it so you can’t just discount it by saying it’s not a big part. I always say be prepared for the worst and if my daughter ever ends up in the position I was in and has a choice to make my hope is that she is fully prepared for what she might experience from it. It would be terrible to go into it thinking it was no big deal and that you could handle it and then realize you can’t and have all of these unexpected emotions. If you go into it expecting it to be bad and come out feeling fine then good for you but every woman should be prepared. And no you cannot generalize the feelings that every woman whose had an abortion should feel, some are perfectly fine with it and others are emotionally scarred. Since I’m in the latter just watching the trailer stings because it feels like my feelings have been trivialized. Should I be ashamed of my feelings and think that I’m some over sensitive weirdo? I should be able to get over it right? Just my humble opinion again ladies, thanks.

      • Bear says:

        No. Women are becoming desensitized and losing their Gaia selves. Abortion has to be “no big deal” or we’re not a feminist or something. Whatever. It’s that type of collectivist thinking that has women not wanting to associate with that word. Abortion is legal. It’s been legal for 40 years during a time when the religious right ruled under Reagan. Its not going anywhere. I feel like if I say that maybe abortion shouldn’t be treated like a joke then suddenly my female card will be jerked from my hand and I’ll be treated like I’m a female Pat Robertson. If people want to have an abortion, go head with your bad selves but you don’t need me to validate it for you over and over again.

      • Alpha Mater says:


        You made the right choice to not carry to term.
        Your daughter waited for YOU, and when YOU were ready she came through you at the time that was right for BOTH of you.


    • MissPurple says:

      I 100% agree with this. I had a tragic experience in my early 20′s..and now the word in general makes my skin crawl because of the emotions(some relief some regret)and it is something that shouldn’t be joked about or make into a light hearted rom-com. I hope nobody ever has to deal with a situation like what I went through. I most defiantly will not be seeing this movie…hits too close to home.

    • Lex says:

      It is a dialogue that needs to be brought out of the shadows. It is so stigmatised – a shameful secret. By bringing it into the mainstream (as with miscarriages) perhaps people will not need to go through it alone and being able to freely discuss it will help people make decisions.

      Id welcome anything like this that helps women in such a way.

  9. Eloise says:

    I’m all for a woman’s right to choose and protecting that right to remain a healthy, safe alternative, but I fail to see any comedic value in such a situation.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      I agree with you.

    • S says:

      Agree. I think their refusal to show the commercial featuring the word abortion was less of a pro-choice/pro-life/#removethestigma stance, but they didn’t want to feature the flippancy of a serious situation in a short commercial.

      It’s one thing for humor to be provided in the context of an entire movie, but when a viewer is only given 15 seconds to process, all they are left with is, “Abortion comedy during my Wednesday night lineup? Oh hell no.”

    • I Choose Me says:

      I was all set to agree with you ladies also but I haven’t seen the movie and so reserve judgment. It’s being billed as a comedy but that does not necessarily mean that the abortion itself will be played for laughs. I hope.

      • S says:

        @I Choose Me- I think we’re on the same page. I think a 15 second commercial without context, promoting the moving as an abortion rom-com will get under people’s skin and create unnecessary controversy- especially for network prime time family viewing audiences.

        On the other hand, humor provided in the context of a 2 hour movie with character development is fine.

        That being said, having several friends who have gone through that situation, it’s not funny, and it’s not easy, even though it was the best choice.

    • Bucky says:

      I’m pretty sure the abortion isn’t the punch line. It’s a rom com that includes an abortion.

  10. Alexandra says:

    I agree with what she’s saying but I can’t get over my dislike for Lena. Yeah, I suck.

  11. eliza says:

    Who even watches NBC except when Hannibal and Grimm are on?

    Ooooooo I am sure the executives are quaking in their overpaid boots over Dunham’s wrath! Sorry, I just cannot like her for any reason.

  12. Jaderu says:

    People still watch NBC?
    I’m reminded of the minor dust-up from that commercial over the holidays with the sexy guys standing in a line playing jingle bells with their…uhm…willy wackers. They had a short story on the “controversy” (people saying it wasn’t appropriate or vulgar) on my local news. When the news program went to break it was a Victoria Secret commercial with ‎Alessandra Ambrosio in all her glory. I couldn’t help but laugh.

    Some of the offensive things that are shown on TV and they are getting their panties twisted because a woman made a decision???
    It’s not exactly a topic that lends it self comfortably to comedy but at what point do we acknowledge the issue?
    Man how many years did it take before a woman was aloud to be shown as pregnant on TV? Remember Lucy hiding behind tables and shit?

  13. Annie says:

    To commenters complaining about how this movie trivializes or glamorizes abortion: did you watch the trailer? It seems as if this is a similar movie to 50/50 (a rom-com written around a cancer diagnosis, which I thought was pretty great). I don’t know that they’re making light of abortion by acknowledging that tragic though it may sometimes be, it’s something regular women deal with and go through. I don’t think stigmatizing this legal choice actually makes it a better, safer, happier world out there for us ladies. IMO one of the many reasons it has been so easy for conservatives to roll back women’s rights in many parts of the US is that we refuse to acknowledge that abortion is a choice made by all sorts of women.

  14. kimber says:

    I have to watch the trailer and I must ditto the, “who even watches NBC?”

  15. SChi says:

    As someone who had an abortion at 16, I am looking forward to this movie. While it was not a situation I had ever wanted to be in, nor wish to be in again, it was not a choice that I ever felt ashamed about, or regretted, or even second guessed. I was a dumb teenager, who dealt with the consequences of my actions in the best possible way for my situation. I am so glad I had the option, and the right to obtain an abortion safely and swiftly. I agree with Lena #StoptheStigma

  16. Chinoiserie says:

    I am sorry but I do not approve abortion and I would have thought that even those who did do would think it is a good subject for comedy. It is not as if euthanasia is common subject in comedies either.

    • Coco1973 says:

      Certainly women have the right to choose and friends I have that had an abortion did not make this decision lightly. I fail to see the comedic value in abortion. Rom-com? There are some topics that just aren’t funny, like abortion or miscarriage, and then there are some that aren’t at all appropriate for comedy. The grossly inappropriate are easier to identify – the holocaust, slavery, sex trafficking, etc. A rom-com about abortion is just not funny is tasteless and probably a box office fail.

  17. dancinnancy says:

    I find it humorous that apparently f**k and abortion and see you next tuesday are the only three words NOT on television.

    Honestly, I’m not one of these crazy Moms who wants only Seasame Street and Barney, but when Prime Time starts in the Central US timezone and my 9 year old can hear bi**h and a$$ and sh*t among others – I find it laughable that “abortion” is what is taboo.

  18. Francis says:

    Worst Vogue Cover ever. IMO

  19. feebee says:

    I don’t understand NBC has being aborting good programming for years. Why would they have a problem with this word. Do the US not have a cut-off time like some other countries? (Though if you can see a programme like Criminal Minds at 8pm (CT) it would seem inconsistent to).’

    Does remind me of a bit of a kerfuffle caused in Aust and NZ when a ad for feminine products used the word ‘vagina’. LOL, seriously I nearly peed myself laughing at the pearl clutching.

    Given the amount of Erectile Dysfunction you have to put up with watching the network news here (US) it’s another hypocritical situation.

  20. Irina says:

    I don’t support abortion, but I do support adoption instead of abortion. I’ve always loved this quote…“I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is ‘Abortion’, because it is a war against the child… A direct killing of the innocent child, ‘Murder’ by the mother herself… And if we can accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love… And we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts…”
    ― Mother Teresa

    • Lady Macbeth ex Hiddles F. says:

      Considering the issues adopting in nearly every country, filling up foster homes with unwanted children doesn’t seem very smart. Sorry. It reminds me of the Catholic nuns depriving single mothers of their children (Philomena? seen it?).
      I totally support the fact women need to have a choice.

      • Irina says:

        Women having the choice to not keep their childrens’ life…I’ll give you that practically it makes some sense, but ethically and conceptually…to me it seems horrific. By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. Whatever excuse a woman has, it cannot outweigh the basic principle that humans a have responsibility to protect and nature their children. By creating a human you have a duty to protecting its humanity. The excuse that the child would not have a good life is, well, the easy way out. Love can surpass hardship. I do understand your point, however.

      • Melanie says:

        While I respect your opinion Irina, my problem with the adoption argument is that not every child finds a home. Lots and lots languish in terrible foster systems for their entire life. And at 18, with no family or support to rely on, they are thrust upon the world. It’s a very difficult life. I work in the court system. There is one judge in particular that has a soft spot for these kids. He can spot them easily, and before sentencing, asks if they’re a product of the foster system. If they are, he goes easy on them.

        I’m pro-choice and while I’ve never had to make the choice, I am glad that it’s available in this country. For some it’s a difficult choice. For others, not so much. I will say that I value a living, breathing human over an embryo. That may be an unpopular opinion, but so be it. I also don’t buy the argument that a woman can’t learn to love because she “killed” her child. The simple act of bearing a child doesn’t teach you to love. I see plenty of horrible unfit mothers every day. Having a child didn’t teach them a single thing about love or compassion.

    • Ange says:

      ‘So just do as I do instead and let people suffer and die because I think they should!’

      Also Mother Theresa in a nutshell.

    • Lex says:

      Many species of animal eat their young. You are making procreation in to something it is not. Every living organism duplicates – if it isnt right at least we humans have the chance to stop it.

  21. Pinns says:

    Is anyone on US TV “allowed” an abortion?

    I’m in the UK so I don’t see every show you have, but all I remember is that everyone who finds themselves unexpectedly up the duff either:
    1) eventually realises they want the baby
    2) decides on adoption
    3) has an accident so she loses the baby.

    I don’t remember anyone choosing: 4) an abortion?

    It seems to be ‘something that must not be acknowledged’ so it doesn’t seem unusual your TV networks don’t have the balls to let a movie trailer ‘say the word’!

    • pinns says:

      Thanks dancinnancy, great link!!
      I’d actually forgotten about Grey’s Anatomy, and even Six Feet Under, and I saw them both!
      I could only remember things like the Sex and the City, DHW, and the endless soaps and films where they almost have one, but ‘come to their senses’ and keep it, yawn.
      The UK is not much better, but it is shown occasionally on soaps like EastEnders and Skins as Leen says.
      Even in the Walking Dead, when Lori was pregnant, she had a car accident and I thought “this is it, convenient plot twist” but she stayed pregnant. I bet if she hadn’t thrown up her morning-after pill it would have generated more complaints than the resultant “birth” scene!!

      I’m not sure what I’m trying to say, but is it poor (male?) story writing, pro life/religious lobbying, or are the pearl-clutchers still outraged so much that networks would rather not bother with the hassle an abortion storyline creates?

  22. Andrea says:

    I lived in the south for awhile and knew a lot of my friends who had an abortion. It seems to be the hidden secret that no one ever wants to discuss. When I told some close friends that if I ever became pregnant with my long-term bf’s baby, I’d have an abortion, they were horrified (I never had one, this was just hypothetical). My argument was we are not financially sound and the thing no one wants to talk about is everyone is a-ok with you taking care of the child as long as you do so financially. It’d be like a huge sin and I’d be milking the system if I had to go on WIC or foodstamps etc (we aren’t that poor but you get my rant here). Also, because I am in my 30′s, it is like I am expected to have a child no matter what circumstances I am in. Since when did we as women lose this choice? I have felt for a long time now that it is deeply frowned upon and I don’t get why; if people aren’t in a stable relationship or do not have the means to support a child, why would anyone want to encourage said people to have the child when they may not want them?? Personally I think this is why there are so many “bad mothers and fathers” out there now too many people made stupid decisions and felt they HAD to have children. I have a friend now whose husband asked her to have an abortion of their second son (she didn’t)and he left her because he really never ever wanted to be a father to their two kids. People really need to think before they have kids(my friend didn’t think and now she’s stuck). Sure, no one should use it as a means of bc, but there are many other circumstances. I am glad this movie was made.

  23. Cel says:

    Well, now they do get free advertisement. But I can understand NBC not wanting to touch on such a divisive issue. Making the topic of abortion something that is dealt with lightly sounds a bit dismissive of the gravity of the issue, no matter what your position on it. I’d think the same thing if we were talking about a rom-com about the death penalty.