About a decade ago, comedian Roni Geva found out she was pregnant. She didn’t feel ready to have a baby, so she went to an abortion clinic. The best way to describe her trip there?
“Unreal,” Geva said.
In the waiting room, she met a woman who seemed to be very comfortable inside the clinic. Geva soon learned that it wasn’t the person’s first time getting an abortion.
“She walked in like a tornado,” Geva said. She shouted at someone who worked at the clinic: “I’m on Zoloft. Is that a problem?” Then, she started “having an insane conversation about all of the abortions she’s had,” Geva recalled. “Looking back, I think I was really judgy.”
Years later, when Geva was working on a webseries about abortion with writer and actress Margaret Katch, she used the woman she once judged as comedic inspiration. The first episode of “Ctrl Alt Delete” features an abortion clinic regular, and a counselor who hands out pins about population control. (In real life, Geva sat in silence as her counselor, a Neo-Malthusian who she was required to talk to, rattled on about her personal interests.)
The first season of “Ctrl Alt Delete,” an abortion comedy that’s posted on Facebook, consists of seven three-minute episodes. Each one focuses on a different woman, from a 46-year-old mother of two who doesn’t want any more kids to an ambitious teenager who tells her dad she’s getting an abortion over breakfast.
The idea for “Ctrl Alt Delete” stemmed from conversations between the series creators’ about their own abortions. Abortions are relatively common — around 1 in 4 women have abortions in the United States by the time they’re 45 — but Geva and Katch couldn’t find anything in media that accurately portrayed women’s varied experiences. Everything seemed polarizing.
“I pretty much went, ‘Dear Internet, give me stories about people like me,’ and there were none,” said Katch, who got pregnant while using the rhythm method, meaning she avoided having sex when she was likely ovulating. Her abortion story is featured in the series, too. Geva and Katch wanted “Ctrl Alt Delete” to showcase a wide-range of reasons why women get abortions, and they wrote all but one episode.
Although it’s fictional, “Ctrl Alt Delete” is based on real people’s experiences, and Geva and Katch cast a wide net to find an array of stories. It’s an attempt to normalize abortion, which has always been a hot-button issue in the United States and beyond.
They hope the comedy will change the conversation around abortion, similar to how “Will and Grace” allowed audiences “to feel like they had a gay friend,” Geva said.
When Geva and Katch released the first episode of season one last September, they braced themselves for hate comments. Most online comments were positive though, they said.
“I have never before heard the words ‘abortion’ and ‘comedy’ used in the same sentence, and I admit that I was at first put off by the notion,” one commenter wrote. “I saw these posts a number of times but didn’t watch. Today, I changed my mind.”
According to Caren Spruch, the director of arts and entertainment engagement at Planned Parenthood, having a series like “Ctrl Alt Delete” really does help expand how people feel about an issue that’s still taboo to talk about.
“In the weeks before and after the last election, we saw five TV shows with storylines about women’s decisions to have an abortion with no shame and no stigma: The CW’s ‘Jane the Virgin,’ Amazon’s ‘Good Girls Revolt,’ FX’s ‘You’re The Worst,’ Showtime’s ‘Masters of Sex’ and the CW’s ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,’” Spruch said in an email.
“These storylines signal a real and important cultural shift,” she continued. “They work so well because they mirror the decisions and experiences of people across America when it comes to pregnancy and family. As more women get behind the camera, I believe we’ll see more stories that reflect those lived experiences.”
The series still rubs some people the wrong way: “Normalize ABORTION??” a recent commenter said. “Hmmm, yall are talking about abortion like its taking out the trash! Sad!!”
Perhaps it’s not a surprise that some pro-life advocates aren’t big fans of the series.
In an email, a spokesman for Students for Life of America said that the series disregards life.
“It importantly shows that birth control is not a silver bullet for preventing abortion, despite what we are constantly told, since many of the women in this show were using birth control when they became pregnant,” they said in an email.
Although Kelsey Hazzard, the current president of Secular Pro-Life, appreciated that the show included a range of characters, she didn’t like how the series stereotypes sidewalk protesters. The “only way to portray abortion positively is to portray it falsely,” Hazzard said in an email.
Serrin Foster, the president of Feminists for Life, liked that the webseries aims to help women rather than shame them. But when she tried to watch the first season, she had a hard time finishing.
“I felt like abortion was trivialized,” she said, noting that for her, normalizing abortion is unlike normalizing marriage or divorce.
Foster said that her organization focuses mainly on changing policies on campuses and in the workplace so that they’re family-friendly. To her, pro-life means creating a society where education and job security for women isn’t hindered by having a child.
“Abortion hasn’t solved the problem of female poverty and the support women need to get back up from jobs and schools,” she said. “We don’t want to tell women not to get abortions, but we do want to make it easier for them to raise their kids.”
A lot of the women Foster has worked with over the years have often been conflicted about their abortions, and she wanted the series to show their perspective as well.
Digging deeper is something Geva and Katch plan to do in season 2 of “Ctrl Alt Delete,” which is currently in “gestation.” Possible storylines? A pregnant woman with severe health issues, someone who gets a late-term abortion, or working through a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis.
“We want to breathe air into more untold stories,” Katch said. “We can go further. It’s safe so far.”