Netflix’s ‘Blonde’ follows the heavily fictionalized story of Marilyn Monroe and her rise to stardom. It charts the transformation of Norma Jeane, a girl from humble beginnings, into Marilyn Monroe, the Hollywood star who becomes one of the most famous people in the world. As her professional and personal life is explored, the audience discovers that behind the spotlight and the fame, the actress lives a troubled life. For all the stardom that she enjoys, she has to pay the price for it.
We find her making one such compromise to stay in business when she discovers she is pregnant for the first time, and despite being happy about it initially, decides to terminate the pregnancy. On the way to the clinic, she changes her mind, but by then, it is too late. The film portrays a disturbing scene where abortion is forced on her. If you are wondering whether she was put in a similar situation in real life, then here’s what you should know.
Was Marilyn Monroe Forced to Have an Abortion?
While it is known that Monroe suffered several miscarriages while she was married to Arthur Miller, there is no evidence to confirm that she was ever forced to abort a child. However, there is a possibility that she might have had abortions of her own accord. Back then, in Hollywood, for an actress to have a child at the peak of her career was not considered profitable by the studios. To stop the actresses from having children, in 1922, a morality clause was introduced in their contracts. This meant that even if an actress was with a child, she would have to terminate the pregnancy if she wanted to keep her contract going.
Taking it a step further, the clauses also sometimes prevented the actresses from getting married. Reportedly, actress Jean Harlow’s contract with MGM forbade her from getting married because that would harm her image of the “blonde bombshell.” Whenever the actresses found themselves in a bind with their contract, they would be referred to certain specialists. They would take a break “for rest” or an “appendectomy” or simply to treat any other normal ailment, and “get rid of the problem.” Getting abortions was so commonplace and considerably more accessible back then.
Many well-known actresses, like Tallulah Bankhead and Joan Crawford, are reportedly known to have employed such services at some point in their careers. Not going through with the pregnancy was also a financial choice for those who couldn’t afford to lose their hard-earned careers. Actress Bette Davis had a family to provide for and her burgeoning acting career needed to be on track for that to happen. So, she chose to have abortions. According to Charlotte Chandler in Davis’ biography ‘The Girl Who Walked Home Alone,’ Davis would’ve missed the biggest roles in her career if she’d not terminated a pregnancy.
The book further mentioned that Davis didn’t have any regrets about it. “I didn’t miss any of these roles, and I didn’t miss having a family,” she said. Similarly, Ava Gardner said that the penalty clauses in her MGM contract would mean that if she had a baby, her salary would be cut off. With her financial situation at the time, she couldn’t afford that. So, as per reports, she had a discreet abortion, and the arrangements were made by the studio. At such a time, the studios needed reliable and safe places to send their actresses, which is where people like Inez Burns came in, who were known to help “women in trouble.”
Considering that Monroe’s contract would have had a similar clause, she might also have had to go through an abortion, even if she didn’t want to. Even without such a clause, it is likely she might have been advised by her manager and studio to terminate a pregnancy, especially at the time when her career was starting to pick pace. Following in the footsteps of other actresses of her time, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Monroe, as well, got an abortion or two. However, due to the lack of evidence, the fact that it was forced on her doesn’t hold true.