Gretchen Sisson

Abortion Onscreen

Telling stories about abortion: abortion-related plots in American film and television, 1916-2013, with Katrina Kimport, Contraception, January 2014.

Abstract: Popular discourse on abortion in film and television assumes that abortions are under- and misrepresented. Research indicates that such representations influence public perception of abortion care and may play a role in the production of social myths around abortion, with consequences for women’s experience of abortion. To date, abortion plotlines in American film and television have not been systematically tracked and analyzed. A comprehensive online search was conducted to identify all representations of pregnancy decision making and abortion in American film and television through January 2013. Search results were coded for year, pregnancy decision and mortality outcome.

Gretchen is one of the lead investigators on ANSIRH’s Abortion Onscreen research program, examining how American film and television throughout history has portrayed abortion, unplanned pregnancy, and reproductive decision-making. This research has been featured on Slate, Talking Points Memo, Think ProgressBitchFeministingJezebel, BustlePolicyMic, and Upworthy, and cited in additional coverage in MSNBCNewsweekSlate, Huffington Post, Gothamist, and Democracy Now.

Teen Pregnancy & Young Parenthood

Finding a Way to Offer Something More: Reframing Teen Pregnancy PreventionJournal of Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 9(1), May 2011.

Abstract: Advocacy organizations have consistently framed adolescent pregnancy as profoundly and enduringly detrimental for young women, their families, and their communities, despite equivocal evidence about the causal relationship between young maternal age and poor outcomes. Without this attribution, logic mandates that such organizations find more evidence-based justifications for teen pregnancy prevention that still address the lived experiences of populations most at risk for early parenthood. If such evidence-based justifications continue to be lacking, it is unlikely that these well-intentioned efforts will truly have a beneficial impact on the communities with which they are concerned. This paper presents such justifications, including recognition of the challenges inherent in parenting and protection of adolescence as a developmental stage, the need to make pregnancy prevention more accessible for those who chose it, and overall investment in adolescent sexual health. From this new paradigm, sexual health advocates can build a class-conscious model of sexual health that recognizes the necessity of providing more options for at-risk youth, the appeal of models of conjoint agency, and the necessity of comprehensive health resources and sexuality education. By adopting a new framework for teen pregnancy prevention, the promise of prevention within a social justice movement can begin to be discussed.

Gretchen also publishes the ongoing Tumblr project Teen Pregnancy PSAs, which collects images from teen pregnancy prevention campaigns so that viewers may identify the narratives our culture perpetuates about teenage sexuality and young parenthood. This project has been featured on ColorlinesChoice USA, and Sociological Images.

Her expertise in this area has been cited by Think Progress and RH Reality Check.

Adoption & Birth Motherhood

Gretchen’s work on adoption focuses primarily on the stories of birth/first families and their experiences making adoption decisions and living out open adoptions within systems heavily shaped by their race, social class, gender, and age. Her work on adoption has been cited by SalonThink Progress and RH Reality Check.

Sociology of Mental Illness

Voices from the Inside: Readings on the Experiences of Mental Illness, Ed. with David Karp, Oxford University Press, 2009.