In the mid-twentieth century film studios sent their screenplays to Hollywood's official censorship body, the Production Code Administration (PCA), and to the Catholic Church's Legion of Decency for approval and recommendations for revision. This article examines the negotiations between filmmakers and censorship groups in order to show the stories that censors did, and did not, want told about pregnancy, childbirth and abortion, as well as how studios fought to tell their own stories about human reproduction. I find that censors considered pregnancy to be a state of grace and a holy obligation that was restricted to married women. For censors, human reproduction was not only a private matter, it was also an unpleasant biological process whose entertainment value was questionable. They worried that realistic portrayals of pregnancy and childbirth would scare young women away from pursuing motherhood. In addition, I demonstrate how filmmakers overcame censors’ strict prohibitions against abortion by utilizing ambiguity in their storytelling. Ultimately, I argue that censors believed that pregnancy and childbirth should be celebrated but not seen. But if pregnancy and childbirth were required then censors preferred mythic versions of motherhood instead of what they believed to be the sacred but horrific biological reality of human reproduction.
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