"There's, quite frankly, no way to talk about this and please everyone," said Dr. Drew on MTV's No Easy Decision abortion special last night. But they did manage to please a lot of pro-choicers with a balanced, clear-eyed take.
MTV is said not to have sought advertisers for the commercial-free 30-minute special, which aired at 11:30pm last night. You can watch the full episode here, but here's the gist. The first half focused on Markai, who was featured in 16 And Pregnant while pregnant with her daughter Zakaria. As Dr. Drew pointed out later, 1 out of 4 teen moms have a repeat pregnancy, and more than 60 percent of women who have abortions already have at least one child.
Markai misses an appointment for her Depo Provera shot and, unaware that it is no longer effective, doesn't use a backup method with her partner James. She's then shown discussing the options with James, her friend Chambray, and eventually her mother, all of whom are supportive of whatever she decides. James and her mother both remind her that, having been through rough times before the birth of her daughter, Markai has now graduated from high school and is saving for college, and everyone is worried about the family's ability to provide for a second child. "I just want to make the best 'What if,'" she says. The conversations feel a little staged, but there's no staging the real and conflicted emotions Markai is feeling.
She eventually speaks to a supportive counselor and then is dropped off by James at a clinic. (It's said that he isn't allowed inside for the procedure, which is not always the case, and nothing inside the clinic is shown on camera.) When he takes her to dinner afterwards, Markai lashes out at him for calling her fetus a "thing," and says there's no way he can understand her pain. She reminds him that their daughter was once a collection of cells.
But later, in the sit-down with Dr. Drew says, "I think I feel more sad about it than regret." Ultimately, they are both clear that they made the right decision for their family.
Dr. Drew was, amazingly, non-judgmental and provided both medical and societal context.
Two more young women, Katie and Natalia, join them to talk about their own experiences. In that conversation, the show manages to cover some very important bases: that abortion is "among the safest, common medical procedures in the U.S." (Dr. Drew), the difficulties presented by needing a judicial bypass of parental consent laws (an option Natalia exercised), the need to find a contraception that works for you (Katie became pregnant in college after not realizing that vomiting after taking the pill would make it ineffective.) There's also cost: Natalia describes how she came up with the $750 to pay for her procedure, including selling her prom ticket back to her high school.
And then there's the stigma, which they talk about here, and which all three women were bravely fighting by appearing on the show.
Pro-choice bloggers who'd been invited ahead of time to weigh in through Exhale's partnership with the show were thrilled. "Seriously, [MTV] nailed it," wrote Lynn Harris in Salon. "And by 'nailed it,' I don't mean they just did a great PSA for abortion. I mean they told the many-sided truth: that abortion is safe and common, that abortion has been made difficult to get, and, most importantly, that abortion is a complex decision made by complex human beings."
And in the live chat, Jamia Wilson of the Women's Media Center wrote, "I like that this is a positive portrayal of an African American family. We don't see enough of our real reality—a community of love, strength, and collective support."
It wasn't just activists: Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker wrote, "No Easy Decision was an admirable production for the way it presented such a sensitive subject with as much thoroughness as it did."
On Markai's Facebook page, the moderator invited people to weigh in her decision as long as they did so respectfully. That meant there was some of this:
But also this:
There are more messages of support at 16AndLoved.com.