Blog RSS

Category: Art and Entertainment, Girls, Reproductive Rights

MTV Abortion Special “No Easy Decision” Addresses Abortion with Compassionate Integrity

December 29, 2010

For the first time in three seasons of MTV's popular series "16 & Pregnant," and one season of "Teen Mom," MTV aired their first coverage of teens who chose to have abortions in last night’s 11:30 EST special titled No Easy Decision.  

In response to MTV’s unprecedented coverage of abortion I proudly partnered with multi-lingual abortion talk-line Exhale’s 16 and Loved campaign as a live-blogger, to show solidarity and love to the brave women who shared their abortion stories.  

The Women’s Media Center team also launched a WMC Watch-In, to increase No Easy Decision’s ratings, to express to MTV that the public is watching and expecting continued, balanced representation of the reality of options available to teens facing unintended pregnancies.

Each episode of the “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” series reaches approximately 2 million viewers during their regular 10:00 PM timeslot. In anticipation that the 11:30PM timeslot would affect ratings and limit the number of people who would receive comprehensive information about all of the options, we reached out to 3,000 supporters via social media, and 45,000 via e-mail.

In spite of the graveyard timeslot, MTV’s compassionate and informative abortion special addressed the issue with dignity and respect. Despite the short duration of the show, MTV’s treatment of abortion conveyed the safety and commonality of the procedure, and provided teens with medically accurate information about pregnancy prevention.

While I am thrilled that MTV tackled the crux of the issue responsibly, it is paramount that teen viewers have access to more objective conversation that lasts longer than 30 minutes in a primetime timeslot. Overall, MTV’s treatment of the special–while short and not advertised to the degree that it should have been–represented the panelists and reproductive health with integrity. I appreciate MTV’s portrayal of the three women on the show, presenting them authentically without promoting stereotypes as they often do in other reality shows. I loved their positive depiction of an African American/Multiracial family, their engagement with spirituality, and their portrayal of women with families and partners who were loving, supportive, and respectful of each woman’s choice. We don’t often hear these stories and I am glad they gave air time to Natalia, Markai, and Katie’s realities. When Katie, explained that she made a “parenting decision” by making the choice to end her pregnancy, I regarded the concept of choice with a more enlightened perspective. I am proud of these young women for living their truth.

In “Viewers Guide to MTV’s Abortion Special: Send Young Women Your Love, But Give Dr. Drew the Side-Eye,” media critic, journalist, and reality TV expert Jennifer Pozner describes Dr. Drew’s history of eliciting problematic and harmful messaging in conversations with people facing crises. Due to Pozner’s sharp media analysis and what I have witnessed when watching Dr. Drew on “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” reunion specials, it was astonishing to see that Dr. Drew’s deferential and non-judgmental treatment of abortion and his sympathetic interactions with the women on the show drastically differed from his past conduct on MTV.

It is imperative that we trust and respect each individual woman’s choices. It was high time for MTV to give coverage to a perspective that has been eerily absent from the "16 and Pregnant" discourse. Each of the smart and brave young women featured on the special represented diverse abortion experiences, expressing a wide range of emotions and realities through personal stories.

Moreover, the show covered issues of access by addressing the obstacles women who live in judicial bypass states endure, while also mentioning the impact of the financial cost of the procedure and consequences that result from misinformation and contraceptive side-effects.

While MTV made a valiant effort, I hope they will take their commitment to helping young people make safe and responsible choices to the next level by devoting more air time to education and information about abortion.

Did you miss the airing of “No Easy Decisions”? Don’t fret. Watch the show here and check out the transcript of Exhale’s “16 and Loved” live-blog from last night and read the conversation I had with brilliant bloggers and wonder women including Lynn Harris, Shelby Knox, Jessica Valenti, and Steph Herold during the show.