Barefoot: Abortion on TV

Abby Barefoot

Did you miss the special MTV did on

teen abortions called “<a href=

“”>No Easy

Decision” during winter break? You probably did, considering

MTV did not promote the special that aired after the “16 and

Pregnant” reunion special in any way whatsoever. They even put the

special in the after hours graveyard spot of 11:30 p.m. eastern


So what’s the big deal? Well, the fact

that it wasn’t promoted or advertised gives in to the popular idea

that having an abortion is something not to be talked about and

something to be ashamed of. If their own network is afraid to

tackle promoting this difficult subject, how are women who had

abortion supposed to feel?

The stand alone special featured three

teens — including <a href=


who gave birth to another child on the show “16 and Pregnant” — and

their decision to terminate their pregnancies and the emotional

aftermath. While the special did a good job showing abortion in a

fair light, the lack of promotion hurt its chance to be helpful to

teens struggling with abortion decisions.

Nearly one-third of all teen

pregnancies end in abortion, according to the <a href=

“”>Guttmacher Institute,

yet “16 and Pregnant” does not feature any teens who chose this

option. Then again, this is the same show where very few mothers

have chosen to give up their child for adoption. What does it say

when a “reality” TV show refuses to show all of the options, mainly


On the “16 and Pregnant” reunion

special that was aired before “No Easy Decision,” <a href=


Markai talked with Dr. Drew about life after her baby was born.

Not once was her abortion discussed at all, but was the main story

on the special. Even when discussing birth control and plans for

having another child, her abortion was ignored.

Of course the reunion was highly

publicized on MTV and was expected to have a high viewership,

unlike “No Easy Decision” which you watched only if you stayed long

enough after the reunion to care.

MTV isn’t the only one to shy away

from the abortions. Movies such as Juno,

“Knocked Up” and “Waitress” all feature unplanned pregnancies but

talk little about abortion or use the word. In “Knocked Up” it is

called “taking care of it” or a “Rhymes with Susmortion.” In

“Waitress” it was simply “the other thing” In “Juno,” Juno goes to

the clinic for one, only to be change her mind when learning the

baby has fingernails.

Even in the ever cheesy Canadian Show

“<a href=

“”>Degrassi” when

they did an abortion two-part episode, the American

channel The

N, refused to show it due to it controversial content. This

same network had no problem showing teen pregnancy, drinking, STDs,

school shootings, but abortion is controversial. Especially since

the show has many plots dealing with sexuality that puts characters

with an unplanned pregnancy.

Why is it that while <a href=


v. Wade case decision turns 38 this month, that abortion is

still looked down upon, or not talked about at all in


Why is the media so scared to show

abortion as a reasonable choice for women? Sure it is

controversial, and not a simple choice to make, but it is

happening. By not publicizing it doesn’t mean abortion will

magically go away.

TV seems to feature abortion plots

more than movies, but never in an even slightly positive light. If

a character does have an abortion or is thinking about on in a

movie or television show, there are several options for her:

1. She magically miscarries before she

has an abortion such as on “Dawson’s Creek” and “Beverly Hill’s


Because while miscarriage does happen,

there is a slim chance that by wishing you don’t want the baby it

will magically happen.

2. She is very much distressed with

and turns to alcohol drugs or other bad behavior, or she dreams

about dead babies, like in “Six Feet Under.”

While I think it is safe to say that

abortion can cause emotional stress, it does not mean that all

women react the same way. So why does our media show only the worst

possible scenario?

3. You die. This occurs after the

abortion, when after backlash from people who find the plot

controversial and boycott your show and then screen writers decide

to kill off the character to appease them. This happened in the

short lived “<a href=

“”>Jack and

Bobby” series.

Because higher forces will punish you

by death for having an abortion regardless if you believe in them.

I’m sure Planned Parenthood says otherwise.

4. At the last possible minute she

will change her mind and keep the baby. Naturally everything is

turns out okay, such as in a plot in “Sex and the City” and more

recently “Private Practice” and the god awful “<a href=


Life of the American Teenager.”

While abortion is not the right choice

for everyone, these shows send the message that it’s not the right

choice for anyone.

“<a href=


Night Lights” is the only show I can think of that recently did

a good job with this topic, with Becky clearly stating why she

wanted it. She was in the 10th grade with no money and knew she

couldn’t raise a child. After having the abortion she thought she

made the right choice. We shall see if screenwriters and

advertisers allow her to keep this decision.

In the 1970s, there was one show that

portrayed abortion in a fair light, “Maude.”

While Maude was

upset about it, she didn’t die, change her mind, or turn to drugs.

In the end she was okay with her decision and moved on. That was 30

years ago, and we have made little progress since then.

There might be more abortion friendly

plots I am missing considering I don’t spend all day watching TV,

but the fact is they are few in number, and if they are there they

are narrow in their views.

What do I want to see in 2011? An

abortion storyline on television portrayed in a fair light, where

while the decision was difficult they feel like they made the right

choice. Oh and for it to be shown at a decent hour.

What happened to the days where TV was

more progressive than the movies? Where they pushed the envelope on

what you can see on TV and were advocates for social change? It

seems now days they are too worried about backlash and loss of

advertisements dollars to do anything outside the box.