Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 426–443 | Cite as

Torture Born: Representing Pregnancy and Abortion in Contemporary Survival-Horror

  • Steve JonesEmail author
Original Paper


In proportion to the increased emphasis placed on abortion in partisan political debate since the early 2000s, there has been a noticeable upsurge in cultural representations of abortion. This article charts ways in which that increase manifests in contemporary survival-horror. This article contends that numerous contemporary survival-horror films foreground pregnancy. These representations of pregnancy reify the pressures that moralistic, partisan political campaigning places on individuals who consider terminating a pregnancy. These films contribute to public discourse by engaging with abortion as an individual, emotional matter, rather than treating abortion as a matter of political principle or a political “means to an end.” This article not only charts a relationship between popular culture and its surrounding political context, but also posits that survival-horror—a genre that has been disparaged by critics and largely ignored by scholars—makes an important contribution to sexual-political discourse. These films use horror to articulate the things we cannot say about abortion.


Abortion Pregnancy Horror Film Popular culture Politics 


Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical standard

The manuscript does not contain clinical studies or patient data.


  1. (2013). Report finds anti-abortion groups misleading schoolchildren. Abortion rights. Accessed 11 Feb 2013.
  2. Banchoff, T. F. (2011). Embryo politics: Ethics and policy in Atlantic democracies. New York: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Benson Gold, R., & Nash, E. (2012). Troubling trend: More states hostile to abortion rights as middle ground shrinks. Guttmacher Policy Review, 15(1), 14.Google Scholar
  4. Boland, R. (2010). Second trimester abortion laws globally: Actuality, trends and recommendations. Reproductive Health Matters, 18(36), 67–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cerulo, K. A. (1998). Deciphering violence: The cognitive structure of right and wrong. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. de Crespigny, L. J., Wilkinson, D. J., Douglas, T., Textor, M., & Savulescu, J. (2010). Australian attitudes to early and late abortion. MJA, 193(1), 9–12.Google Scholar
  7. de Cruz, P. (2013). Comparative healthcare law. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Department of Health. (2013). Abortion statistics, England and Wales: 2012. UK Government. Accessed 11 July 2013.
  9. Dowland, S. (2009). ‘Family values’ and the formation of a Christian Right agenda. Church History, 78(3), 606–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gatter, M., Kimport, K., Foster, D. G., Weitz, T., & Upadhyay, U. (2014). Relationship between Ultrasound viewing and proceeding to abortion. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 123(1), 81–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gerber Fried, M. (2013). Reproductive rights activism in the post-Roe era. American Journal of Public Health, 103(1), 10–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Greene Foster, D., & Kimport, K. (2013). Who seeks abortions at or after 20 weeks? Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 45(4), 210–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Greene Foster, D., Kimport, K., Gould, H., Roberts, S., & Weitz, T. (2013). Effect of abortion protesters on women’s emotional response to abortion. Contraception, 87(1), 81–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jones, S. (2013). Torture porn: Popular horror after Saw. London: Palgrave-Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jones, R. K., & Jerman, J. (2014). Abortion incidence and service availability in the United States, 2011. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 46(1), 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kaczor, C. (2012). The ethics of abortion: Women’s rights, human life, and the question of justice. New York: Taylor and Francis.Google Scholar
  17. Ludlow, J. (2008). The things we cannot say: Witnessing the traumatization of abortion in the United States. Women’s Studies Quarterly, 36(1/2), 28–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Maas, J. (2009). Fetal homicide: Emerging statutory and judicial regulation of third-party assaults against the fetus. In J. L. Mullings, J. W. Marquart, & D. J. Hartley (Eds.), The victimization of children: Emerging issues (pp. 205–232). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Nash, E., Benson Gold, R., Rowan, A., Rathbun, G., & Vierboom, Y. (2014). Laws affecting reproductive health and rights: 2013 state policy review. New York: Guttmacher Institute.Google Scholar
  20. Obama, B. (2013). Statement by the President on Roe v. Wade Anniversary. The White House. Accessed 22 January 2013.
  21. Palmer, J. (2009). Seeing and knowing: Ultrasound images in the contemporary abortion debate. Feminist Theory, 10(2), 173–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Pazol, K., Creanga, A. A., Zane, S. B., Burley, K. D., & Jamieson, D. J. (2012). Abortion surveillance. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: MMWR, 61(8), 1–44.Google Scholar
  23. Phillips, R. (2011). Some films should not be seen (6 December). The Courier Mail (Australia).Google Scholar
  24. Pullella, P. (2014). Pope Francis calls abortion ‘horrific’ in ‘state of the World’ address (14 January). Huffington Post.Google Scholar
  25. Robey, T. (2007). It’s not scary—just revolting (27 June). The Daily Telegraph.Google Scholar
  26. Rossier, C., Tolemon, L., Prioux, F., & Grieve, M. (2009). Abortion trends in France, 1990–2005. Population, 64(3), 443–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Saletan, W. (2011). When it comes to abortion, why wait? Spiked. Accessed 6 December 2011.
  28. Sedgh, G., Singh, S., Henshaw, S. K., & Bankole, A. (2011). Legal abortion worldwide in 2008: Levels and recent trends. International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 37(2), 84–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sisson, G., & Kimport, K. (2014). Telling stories about abortion: Abortion-related plots in American film and television, 1916–2013. Contraception, 89(5), 413–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Steinberg, J. R., & Russo, N. F. (2009). Evaluating research on abortion and mental health. Contraception, 80(6), 500–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Steinmetz, K. (2011). A push to limit abortion. Time, 177(13), 1.Google Scholar
  32. Terrell, L. (2009). The brutal and the banal become us (8 March). The Star-Ledger.Google Scholar
  33. Williams, D. K. (2012). No happy medium: The role of Americans’ ambivalent view of fetal rights in political conflict over abortion legalization. Journal of Policy History, 25(1), 42–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Wolf, R. (2013). Obama judicial nominee questioned on abortion, religion (24 July). USA Today.Google Scholar
  35. Wood, R. (1986). Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Room SQ306e, Department of Media and Communication DesignNorthumbria UniversityNewcastle upon TyneUK

Personalised recommendations