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Taboos
Abortion - In the early days of television, program characters reveled in the idea of having a baby and raising it season to season (remember little Ricky birth in the 1950s?). But the winds of change blew over TV Land courtesy of producer Norman Lear who introduced the viewing audience to "Maude's Dilemma" a two-part episodes (11/14-21/72) on the situation comedy MAUDE/CBS/1972-78.

Bea Arthur as MAUDE

The program depicted a 45-year-old feminist named Maude Findlay (Beatrice Arthur) finding herself pregnant and opting for an abortion. To comfort Maude, her grown daughter said "When you were young, abortion was a dirty word. It's not anymore."

Two CBS affiliates canceled the episodes and 32 CBS affiliates were pressured not to rerun the segments in the summer of 1973 by anti-abortion factions.

The second airing of the program gave the show a 41 percent share with 65 million people tuning in.

The first time the show aired CBS received 7,000 letters; the second time around 17,000 letters of protest poured in.

This program appeared at a time when the Supreme Court had not yet protected legalized abortion (The Roe vs. Wade decision was still one year away)

Reportedly, Pro-Life groups mailed Norman Lear photographs of aborted fetuses in protest. TVs first (then illegal) abortion operation aired in 1964 on the NBC serial ANOTHER WORLD when Pat Matthew's boyfriend, Tom Baxter talked Pat into having an abortion-and was later killed by her.

TRIVIA NOTE: In 1960, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the first oral contraceptives for marketing in the United States, and "The Pill" is commercially produced in the US for the first time.

In 1964, Patricia "Pat" Matthews (Susan Trustman) from the fictional Midwestern town of Bay City on the soap opera ANOTHER WORLD has an abortion (at the time an "illegal operation") at the insistence of her playboy boyfriend. After the abortion, Pat learns that she may be sterile because of the operation and she kills him in a fit of rage upon discovering he never intended to marry her. Charged with murder, she is acquitted. Pat then marries her attorney and has twins. This soap opera was also one of the first to depict themes of homosexuality, and teenage prostitution (TV Guide 4/4/92 p. 13)

In 1973, Erica Kane (Susan Lucci) featured on the soap opera ALL MY CHILDREN had daytime TV's first legal abortion. Erica Kane sought to terminate her baby because she feared gaining weight and compromising her modeling career.


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