New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

Document Type



Columbia Law Review Sidebar, Vol. 116


Over the past two decades, legal protections for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals have dramatically expanded. Simultaneously, meaningful access to reproductive choice for women has been eroded. What accounts for the different trajectories of LGBTQ rights and reproductive rights?

This Essay argues that one explanation — or at least partial explanation — for the advance of LGBTQ rights relative to reproductive rights is the differing degree to which individuals have come out about their experiences with sexuality compared to coming out about experiences with unplanned pregnancies. In particular, as catalogued in this Essay, popular media portrayals of lesbian and gay individuals have proliferated, broadening the social and judicial understanding of minority sexualities. Meanwhile, popular media portrayals of women confronting unplanned pregnancies remain relatively sparse and, when they do appear, often inaccurate and unrepresentative.

The correlation between positive media portrayals of lesbian and gay individuals and judicial recognition of protections for sexual minorities suggests that in order to halt the erosion of reproductive rights, it will be important for society to be exposed to people exercising their right to abortion, both on the screen and in the office and at the kitchen table.

Date of Authorship for this Version



abortion, same-sex marriage, LGBT rights, coming out, Whole Woman's Health, Hellerstedt, contact hypothesis, media