Don’t Forget That Dirty Dancing Has a Powerful Pro-Choice Message


One of the main fallacies in the arguments of anti-abortion activists is that making the procedure illegal will eradicate it (it’s much more complicated than that). As history shows, pregnant people will still seek out abortions, and if they can’t do that safely, they’ll risk their own life. Ever seen Spring Awakening? Or a little movie called Dirty Dancing?

While the romance and the dancing are often what people remember about the 1987 hit, the plot actually hinges on a botched back-alley abortion. The original dance partner for Johnny (Patrick Swayze) is Penny; Baby (Jennifer Grey) not only borrows money from her doctor father to pay for Penny’s abortion; she also enlists his help when Penny nearly dies from the procedure. 

The film takes place in 1963, a decade before Roe v. Wade, and as Baby’s father, Dr. Houseman, says, the person who operated on Penny was “a butcher.” It’s a harrowing cautionary tale about what happens not only when abortion is illegal but also when men fail to take responsibility for their part in pregnancy. And sadly, it couldn’t be timelier.

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With the overturn of Roe on the horizon, Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Grey—who is currently promoting her memoir, Out of the Corner—spoke to The View about the movie’s relevance. “I really, like so many of us, I am horrified that this is really on the table again in 2022,” she said. “Talk about being in the corner”—a reference to the movie’s famous line about limiting a woman by putting her “in the corner.”

“If you don’t want to have an abortion, don’t have one. Just don’t have one. Don’t take away the choice,” Grey continued, making her stance clear.


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