Media Applaud Teen Abortion in Episode of NBC’s "Friday Night Lights"

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 13, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Media Applaud Teen Abortion in Episode of NBC’s "Friday Night Lights"

by Melissa Afable
July 13, 2010 Note: Melissa Afable writes for Newsbusters, the blog of the Media Research Center. This column is reprinted with permission.

NBC’s "Friday Night Lights" wants to tackle more than football players.

In a bold move for scripted dramas, which usually shy away from taboo issues, the July 9 episode of the network drama featured a high school-aged character deciding to have an abortion, declaring it was "the right thing to do." The plotline earned praise from many in the media.

Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker praised "Friday Night Lights" for delivering "one of its finest hours ever."

In a July 10 blog post, The Atlantic’s Tony Lee noted that he was impressed by the "nuanced, apolitical manner" that the writers used to convey the dilemma facing this pregnant teenage girl.

Lee described the episode as "devoid of political posturing or grandstanding," ignoring the fact that the writers’ decision to include a pro-choice decision is itself a political statement.

While the characters did not deal lightly with the issue, the show’s justification for the abortion relied on several common pro-choice arguments, including economics and self-interest.

The pregnant student, Becky Sproles, worried she wouldn’t be able to care for a baby. Her confidant, high school principal Tami Taylor, advised Sproles that she would tell her own daughter to "think about her life, think about what’s important to her and what she wants."

That position earned support from Slate. Writer Emily Bazelon said Taylor’s advice for Sproles to "think about her life" was "the perfect thing" to say in that situation.

New York Times writer Ginia Bellafante called the storyline "remarkable," noting the rarity of abortions on television shows since the 1970s. Bellafante said that unlike more recent shows that presented both arguments in the abortion debate fairly, "Friday Night Lights" chose instead to hold to its "quasi-Marxist understanding that economics dictate everything."

The episode did include mentions of alternatives to abortion, including crisis pregnancy centers and adoption agencies. But Bellafante acknowledged that the "opposing view," that is, the pro-life view, "was depicted as obtuse and out of touch."


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