One of the biggest frustrations on television today is the constant denial of one very real fact: women have abortions. We’ve talked at length on the show about the ways that TV has gotten around this issue over the years. From Julia’s convenient miscarriage on Party of Five to the countless women who choose to keep babies in circumstances that likely would have led to abortion had their characters lived in the real world. On Parenthood, Amber chose to have her baby, though the show did have Drew’s girlfriend Amy get an abortion earlier in the series. Amy, however, then fell into a deep depression and dropped out of school as a result of the trauma brought on by this abortion.
Television has been breaking ground in many incredible ways in recent years. We are seeing more racial diversity, more sexual diversity, and more gender equality. More and more people are feeling represented by the stories being told on television. Allowing women to exercise their rights to choose abortion, however, has still been taboo.
It’s incredibly important that young women know that abortion is a safe option. Whether it is the right option for the individual is entirely up to that woman, but when we show women making the same choice over and over again, or we only show a woman who does choose abortion, but can then barely function, it is a misrepresentation of the options.
Enter the current season of the CW’s Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. In the span of just a few weeks, each of these shows has had a woman in her 40s get an abortion. In both instances, the information was dispensed almost as a throw away line (the narrator quickly filled us in on Jane, while Paula’s son made the non-announcement on Crazy.) There was no big deal made, no major discussion had. Neither woman is a teenager. Neither woman was a victim of sexual assault. One was married to the man who got her pregnant, the other was not. In both cases, these women had grown children and were at the point in their lives where they wanted to focus on other things. So they chose not to have a baby.
It is 2016. Young women should absolutely know how to avoid accidentally getting pregnant. If they are sexually active they should know about contraceptives and exactly how to use them effectively. But, they should also know that in the event that a pregnancy occurs, some women make the choice to have an abortion. They should also know that, for many women, that choice comes with a very real feeling of relief, not guilt.
Many women who find themselves with a pregnancy they were not expecting decide to keep their babies. Many others do not. It’s crucial we tell both stories and that we tell them wholly and honestly. Bravo to the CW and to showrunners Jennie Snyder Urman, Aline Brosh McKenna, and Rachel Bloom for being brave enough to do it right.