MTV’s Abortion Show Was…Actually Good

Like many of my colleagues in the pro-choice feminist blogosphere, I’m pleasantly shocked at how well MTV handled the topic of abortion during their special that aired last night, called No Easy Decision. (Click here to watch the full show and here to read the live blog I did with feminist superstars Jessica Valenti, Steph Herold, Lynn Harris, and Jamia Wilson during it. Also, Lynn’s post on the show and Jessica’s piece on the show.)

Yup, there were a lot of really great things that happened during the show, including:

– Dr. Drew provided medically accurate information about both abortion and birth control with minimal shaming!

– The powers that be refrained from editing the two main characters of the special, Markai and James, into race and gender stereotypes and instead offered a (sadly and unfairly) rare portrayal of a strong, supportive African American family!

– Markai shared with the audience her call to the clinic counselor to get more information about abortion, thereby sharing with MTV’s audience the different types of abortion and the non-judgmental compassion characteristic of most real providers (read: as opposed to fake clinics, called crisis pregnancy centers)

– Markai and two other women who joined her on a panel to discuss their abortion experiences, Katie and Natalia, honestly discussed the range of emotions they experienced after their procedures, from sadness to relief to pride. Katie described poignantly described her choice to end her pregnancy, “a parenting decision.”

– MTV allowed the young women to illuminate different barriers to abortion for young women. Natalia pursued and was granted a judicial bypass to a parental notification law, a process she described as “begging for permission to make your own decision.” She also explains the economic barriers, relating how she sold her prom ticket to help raise the $750 she needed for the abortion. In an extended online version, she also discussed the pain of being forced – by yet another law – to view an ultrasound before the procedure.

As I write this list, I realize that I’m sad and more than a bit angry that the portrayal of these very basic things – accurate information about reproductive health matters, nuanced portrayal of young people, frank discussion of the basics and the barriers to accessing one of the safest and most common medical procedures, as well as the wide range of experiences of the one in four women who do access it – gets us SO EXCITED. This should be the norm in real life and on television, not a hush hush exception that came on late at night, with no advertisement beforehand, and no plans to be re-aired or followed up or extended into a longer, multi-episode conversation.

But it’s not in either sphere and while we keep working to make it so, we’ve got to start somewhere. No Easy Decision was a first step toward reducing the stigma around abortion and normalizing via television respecting and trusting young women’s choices. Huge props go to whomever at MTV greenlighted the project – here’s hoping this success encourages the network to move in a similar vein, perhaps by for the first time allowing characters on their show 16 and Pregnant to at least talk about abortion as an option and, hey, even show some of them following through with it.

Also exceptional was the online space created by Exhale, a multi-lingual after abortion counseling talkline, called 16 and Loved. The site’s sole purpose is to support Markai, Katie, and Natalia and other young women who’ve chosen abortion. Exhale got ahead of the inevitable anti-choice shenanigans and focused most of the conversation online, especially on Twitter during the special, toward loving and accepting the young women rather than arguing the politics of abortion rights.

Of course, the real sheroes of No Easy Decision are Markai, Katie and Natalia. Because of their courage, young women who saw or see the show who’ve had abortions know that they’re not alone and they don’t have to be ashamed. As feminists know, that realization – that you’re not alone, you’re not crazy or bad for doing what you’ve done or feeling what you’re feeling  and you’re even a bit pissed that you were ever made to feel you were – is quite revolutionary. Thank you, sisters, for speaking your truth so others may know and embrace theirs.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “MTV’s Abortion Show Was…Actually Good

  1. I LOVED your piece and loved blogging with you. Thanks for all you do to support and uplift women! xo

  2. Micky Myers

    I was surprised how well it was done too! I really like when Markai said she felt sadness but not regret. I thought there were a lot of really poignant moments.

  3. A.Roddy

    This is a slap in the face to infertile couples who will never have children. Get your tubes tied or use more reliable birth control instead of using your ‘mistake’ as a political platform. It is no excuse. A few things 1) There are risks to every procedure 2) Not all feminists are for abortion. 3)They are not heroes. I cant understand how they are heroes while everyone slams the Duggars and Octomom for exercising their choices. . Teens should not be pregnant or anyone else who cant deal with the consequences of sex. How can any one promote something so irresponsible? It shows how youth are growing up way too fast. This is a very bad message for youth. Have sex, someone else will take care of the consequences.

    • Micky Myers

      I don’t want to engage you in debate but I do want to say one thing.

      I am infertile. I will almost definitely never reproduce. I wanted to have children very badly but that will probably never happen.

      However that has not changed my mind one bit on abortion. If anything it has made me even more aware, and solidified in my mind that this is a completely personal matter. Please do not use me and the other 1 out of 3 couples who will struggle with infertility as an excuse to invade the privacy of other women.

      Infertile women are much more enraged by people who see children as “consequences”.

  4. A.Roddy

    I wish I had $750 to pay my bills.

  5. Pingback: Mädchenmannschaft » Blog Archive » “Schweden ist das Saudi Arabien des Feminismus” – Neujahrsnews

  6. FREE tea

    —-Our ultra-rich eugenicist RED China ‘friendly’ tax free ‘charitable’ foundations (Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford, Buiffet, Soros, GATES)
    at it again.

    Their latest skilfully executed ‘predictive programming’ going beyond
    Oprah, to set-up even younger generations…

    REMEMBER KIDS! —the extermination of 90% of humanity by 2100
    is the STATED aim! 100 MILLION Americans are to be eliminated
    by 2050 via tainted vaccines, sterilization programs both open and
    ‘stealth’, viruses, and —of course ABORTION.

    CHECK OUT ‘BLOOD MONEY’ doc. on Youtube
    and ‘ENDGAME’ doc too, esp. the second half.

    BE VERY VERY VERY AWARE ———————–WOE!

  7. Pingback: Our “16 & Loved” Media RoundUp « Exhale is Pro-Voice

  8. I too saw this, and was amazed. The show until then had been entertaining (I feel bad saying that, but it was) but in my head along with a friend who watches it we agreed we would give the show no true merit until not only did they talk about the option of abortion openly but one of the “16 and pregnant” girls had one. True they haven’t focused on one as that being their first choice and then the end results of all that but I am very happy that they at least covered it the way they did; it was a great change from what I expected.

    Also, I just finished watching the education of SK and that how I came across your blog by googling your name right after to see what you were up to these days. I was disappointed that the G.a.p. group didn’t win but haven’t checked yet to see if any have been allowed to have groups in the school since the documentary aired. I also loved watching that film because although I am not religious it was awesome seeing someone who was fight for such logical things as education for the sake of safety, and equal rights.
    Thank you for that.

  9. Sad that we women have taken something as beautiful as child bearing and turned it into a weapon we use against men. It is the one thing that we can absolutely do that they cannot yet we poison it by screaming, “Choice! Choice! Let me destroy this miracle my body can produce. ”

    Real education comes when we let girls and young women know that, yes, they are valued and embraced even if they *choose* abortion – but that there are ways to avoid needing to even consider it. I am sad to see your “education” has gone this route, Ms. Knox. But I respect your right to feel as you do.

    I hope some day you choose to teach women to value the gift of reproduction through respecting their bodies BEFORE they get pregnant. I did not marry till 30, and yes I had sex beforehand, but knew enough to keep myself from having to make a decision about abortion. The gift of life our bodies can produce as females is the ultimate form of feminism yet we have chosen to use it as a battle cry that we often shout as we march to a clinic to destroy it.

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