Ready For Primetime: TV Dramas Tackle Unplanned Pregnancy

Today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. While I don't know if this is coincidental, two shows this week - Friday Night Lights and Private Practice - both had major storylines that tackled abortion worthy of a look.

The stories were about two very different young girls both about 15 and in high school:

One white, Friday Night Lights; one black, Private Practice

One rich, Private Practice; one poor, Friday Night Lights

The outcome (spoiler): one abortion, Friday Night Lights

I've said many, many times how big a fan I am of Friday Night Lights. It is one of the best shows on television, hands down. If you don't watch the show because you think it is about football I say you are an idiot. This is the second season that the show has aired on Direct TV first and will run on NBC in the spring. I beg you to watch it.

The storyline revolved around Becky (Madison Burge) a beauty queen singer desperate to be loved realizing she is pregnant from the first time she slept with Luke (Michael B. Jordan) one of the football stars. She does not want to have the baby, especially because her mother had her when she was very young and she believes that she is her mother's mistake.

Becky needs advice desperately and Tim Riggins takes her to see Coach Taylor's wife Tammy Taylor who also happens to be the principal of one of the town's high schools. (I can't post the scene because you tube is blocking it. The crazy thing that the rest of the show is up but this segment is being blocked. Interesting.)

So here's the transcription from one of their conversations.

Becky: I have an appointment for my abortion tomorrow. Why do I feel so weird?

Tammy: Because it's a hard decision. Have you thought about what you want?

Becky: We don't have any money. I'm in the 10th grade. It was my first time and I threw it away and I don't want to throw my life away. It's just really obvious that my mom wants me to have this abortion because I was her mistake and she has just struggled and hurt and everyday she wanted better. And I knew better and I was just thinking forget about what she wants, what do I want? Maybe I could take care of this baby and maybe I would be good at it and I could love it and I would be there for it. And then I think about how awful it would be if I had a baby and I spent the rest of my life resenting him or her.

Do you think I am going to hell if I had an abortion?

Tammy: No honey, I don't.

Becky: What would you tell your daughter?

Tammy: I would tell her to think about her life, think about what's important to her and what she wants and I would tell her she's in a real tough spot and then I would support whatever decision she made.

Becky. I can't take care of a baby. I can't.

That conversation was calm and serious, yet very respectful. It looks like the advice that Principal Taylor gave Becky is going to get her into big trouble because in the scenes from next week she is called into her bosses office and told that the mother of Becky's baby daddy wants to get her fired because she counseled her to get an abortion. I am interested to see how they handle this.

Private Practice handled the issue very differently. It was crazy town. Maya played by Geffri Maya is the daughter of doctors, Naomi and Sam Bennett played by Audra McDonald and Taye Diggs. Naomi, a fertility specialist, is vehemently anti-choice. When she find out in this episode that her 15-year-old daughter is pregnant she demands that she get an abortion. I have had many issues with Naomi's crazy behavior this season and in this episode she went way overboard and was not only not helpful, but very hurtful to her daughter. Thank goodness Aunt Addie, the clear headed Addison (Kate Walsh) gynecologist and surgeon was around to give Maya some good advice. The scene between Addison and Maya in the procedure room to me was well done and informative. I need the experts to weigh in on the facts.

Click forward to start the segment at 28:00

Part of the transcription of that section:

Maya: All my life my mom told me that she would never do this that from the second they are conceived the baby is a life, a gift from god and that abortion is wrong, that it is murder.

Addison: Yes, that is what your mother believes.

Maya: What about you, what do you believe?

Addison: I believe that until a fetus can survive on its own outside of the mother's body that it is not a life. I believe that life begins at birth.

Maya: So you think that my mom was wrong before and now she's right because she wants me to do this?

Addison: I think that your mother and I think differently. I can't help you with this decision. I can and will give you an abortion and I can offer you other options and see you through this pregnancy but I can't help you decide…As your doctor I know this is hard and this is an unimaginable grown up decision but you did a grown up thing and now you are in a grown up redicament and it doesn't matter what I believe or what your mother believes, it matters what you believe.

Maya: But my mom…

Addison: Until the 24th week of pregnancy what a woman does with her own body is her own business. It's the law. And a lot of fine women fought a long time to give you the right to do what you think is best. It's your body. Your choice.

Your body. Your choice. On TV! It's been a long time coming. Additionally I noticed that the episodes of both show were written and directed by women. FNL was written by Bridget Carpenter and directed by Amy Cannon Mann. PP was written by Patti Carr & Lara Olsen and directed by Bethany Rooney.

Not only am I impressed that two shows covered the topic, but the women (girls) were not vilified and abortion was given as a viable option. Usually when we talk about abortion in pop culture we need to see some protesters just to make sure we know that it is a controversial issue. This time all the controversy that was needed was two young women in pain about the big decision they had to make.

This post originally appeared on Women & Hollywood, writer/marketing consultant Melissa Silverstein's blog devoted to bringing attention "to the films, TV shows, theatre and other entertainment that highlights women and our contribution to the culture." Republished with permission.