How Jane The Virgin Wonderfully Handled Abortion
Jane the Virgin has been something of a crowd favorite since it debuted in 2014. But more than just entertaining its audience, the show has broken barriers regarding countless taboo topics, including virginity (obviously), illness and ability, feminism and women's careers, Latina actresses' agency in Hollywood, and unplanned pregnancy. And one recent episode, in which one of the main characters pursues an abortion, was no different.
To recap for those who haven’t binged Jane on Netflix, Jane Villanueva is accidentally artificially inseminated while engaged to another man. To top it off, she has planned to remain a virgin until marriage, due to a promise she made her very Catholic grandmother. A love triangle forms between her fiancee and the father of her child, she has a super cute baby, and there are about eight million other dramatic twists and turns. But through it all, her core family unit remains in tact. The story is narrated and shot telenovela-style, but its relevance to American culture is brilliant and cohesive.
At the beginning of the series, Jane debates terminating her pregnancy. After all, she is already in a committed relationship, her career is just getting started, and she didn’t choose any of this. Ultimately, though, she commits to the pregnancy and gives birth to a son.
But now, in its third season, the topic of unwanted pregnancy pervades the plot line once more: Jane’s mom, Xiomara (Xo for short), rekindled an old flame with Jane’s once-estranged father, Rogelio. She eventually breaks off the relationship because while she does not want children, Ro does. After having Jane as a teen, Xo proclaims that she had given up enough and wants to lead her own life, because, you know, she’s a strong and independent woman and she can. Xo and Ro live life through a filter of tension and bitterness for a while, and in that time, Xo has a fling with another man (who happens to be Ro’s arch nemesis — I told you. Dramatic.) and faces an unwanted pregnancy.
Since she chose to end a loving and respectful relationship because she didn’t want children, it only makes sense to Xo not to keep a baby from a spiteful sexual encounter. And that’s exactly what she does: Xo has an abortion. She says, “I’m not going to keep it,” goes to the doctor — a scene we don’t even see on TV — and obtains a medication abortion. The episode's plot is not about the decision to get an abortion or the abortion itself, but Xo's relationship with her mother (remember, super Catholic) who she fears won't be too pleased with this news. But by the end of the episode, the characters come to terms with Xo's decision and it's in the past. The abortion doesn’t define the story line but helps it along.
Xo’s “chill” abortion is meaningful. Abortion is definitely a personal choice — and a different one depending on personal circumstances. Some women aren't able to carry a pregnancy to term for medical reasons, others may choose to pursue one after a rape or assault, and others still may be otherwise unable to care for a child. Or, like Xiomara, some may simply not want to have a child. But no matter their reasoning, many women are still often criticized for terminating an unwanted pregnancy — that is, if they're able to obtain one at all.
Part of the reason the choice to have an abortion, as well as access to the procedure itself, is still so contentious is because of the stigma attached to abortion. This stigma is often reflected in the media, which makes Jane the Virgin's decision to normalize abortion, and not depict it as a scene involving abuse or assault (often the only "excuse" for women to have control of their bodies) so meaningful. In fact, Xiomara receives great support from Rogelio, which proves his strength and respect for women, and Jane.
Xiomara’s abortion represented a scenario that is realistic for many women — especially the fact that her mother disagreed with her choice. But love prevailed in the situation — both in terms of Xo’s self love and her mother’s unconditional parental love. While some pro-life protesters depict women who have abortions as “killers,” rather than women who made a choice to better their own lives and keep their potential child out of harm’s way, women who get abortions are actually lovers. They have respect for their own health and the health, wellness, and care of their possible children. Making a choice to keep or abort a baby comes from a place of strength and vulnerability, and women deserve to be celebrated for their freedom and dignity, not for “committing murder.”
Abortion is not simply justifiable: it shouldn’t have to be justified in the first place. If a man gets a vasectomy, it’s considered helpful and generous for his wife. If a man takes custody of a child, he is seen as making a valiant, heroic choice. But people see women's reproductive choices differently (shocker), and they deserve so much better.
If a woman gets an abortion, it’s her choice. And that’s that. Xiomara got an abortion. Jane didn’t. They live in a country where it is possible to make either choice. Let’s keep it that way.
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