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Especially Heinous: Law & Order’s Ugly History With Abortion


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Since the now instantly recognizable opening notes of the theme song first aired over 26 years ago, Law & Order and its various franchise series have explored their own dramatic brand of New York City crime and justice. And since that very first season — between stories of homicides and sexual assaults, startling cold opens and jury verdict endings, rotating district attorneys and ever-changing Olivia Benson haircuts — there have been stories about abortion.

The show doesn’t do it often. Only about 2% of the franchise’s over 1,000 episodes address abortion in a significant way. But when it does, Law & Order opens a pop cultural window into the social myths about abortion, the providers who perform them, and the women who obtain them.

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