MTV Show “No Easy Decision” a Reminder Abortion Industry Misleads Women

Opinion   |   Laura Echevarria   |   Dec 29, 2010   |   2:10PM   |   Washington, DC

Early in 2010, feminist author Jessica Valenti was concerned about the show 16 and Pregnant not validating a teenage girl’s choice to have an abortion. Valenti argued in February 2010:

Why are some teen pregnancies worth covering while others aren’t?  There is more than one kind of pregnant teen; even if a teenager decides to have an abortion she was still pregnant, her story is still important, and her decision is worth talking about.  This absence of teens who choose abortion in 16 and Pregnant feels like a dismissal of so many young women’s experiences.

I strongly disagree with Valenti’s assertion that MTV is somehow “dismissing” the abortion “experiences” of other young women. Teen pregnancy is life-changing and our job as adults isn’t to validate the life experiences of a teenager.

Whether “No Easy Decision’s” producers saw Ms. Valenti’s arguments or not, MTV corrected its omission of covering abortion with last night’s special No Easy Decision. The program followed one of the teens, Markai, from the show 16 and Pregnant after she found out that her birth control method failed and she was pregnant for a second time in less than a year. The show included interviews by Dr. Drew Pinsky with two young women who also made the decision to have abortions. In promotional materials MTV said the special report would show “the devastating effects of facing such a decision.”

One of my concerns before watching the show was that it would document the effects of facing an abortion decision but not the after-effects of the abortion itself. And while it turned out to be true, I think Markai’s decision and some of the comments made reveal more about the abortion industry than pro-abortion groups would care to admit.

Markai is uncertain what to do and knows she has three “options”: adoption, give birth or have an abortion. While she says abortion is not her first choice, but both she and her boyfriend James recognize that they had a rough time getting to the point in their lives where they can provide for their daughter. James, in particular, recalls what it was like as a child to grow up without water, electricity and sometimes food in the house and he doesn’t want to do that to their daughter. Because the decision affects Markai more because of her plans to attend college, James says that maybe she should talk to someone else and get another opinion. 

While at a friend’s house to discuss the issue, Markai calls an abortion clinic and the staff person talks to her about the abortion methods available. This staffer comments that during a pill-induced abortion the “pregnancy tissue” would be expelled. During the discussion, Markai gets upset and has to hand the phone off to her friend.

When she finally makes her decision to have the abortion, Markai says that she feels she needs to do it to give her daughter a better chance at life. What I found particularly troubling was that at six weeks of pregnancy, abortion clinic staff told her not to think of the baby as having “ten fingers, ten toes, a forehead” etc. Staff told her to think of the baby as a “clump of cells”—it would be less upsetting that way.

Developmentally, a young woman six weeks pregnant is carrying a four-week old baby that has a heartbeat. It’s disingenuous for clinic staff to call it a “clump of cells”—we’re not talking about removing a mole or taking a biopsy.

Abortion clinic staff are trying to make the abortion easier. But no matter how you dress it up, abortion isn’t easy and it has lasting effects.

After the abortion, Markai tells James she wondered if she could have made a “better” decision. Even months later, at the time of the studio interview, when Dr. Pinsky asks Markai if she regrets the abortion, Markai says that it’s not so much regret as it is sadness.

Now, of course, MTV, while not exactly a shill for Planned Parenthood during this program, comes close a few times. For example, Dr. Pinsky uses the Planned Parenthood argument that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures to date. As for the documentary aspects of the show, the editors of the program did do a good job presenting the reality of Markai’s decision-making process. Even so, Markai had a great deal of support and still made the decision to abort her unborn child. How much more difficult it must be for teens who don’t have support from their parents or the child’s father.

Another thing I found troubling was that in the studio interviews, Markai and the two other young women were asked about adoption and told Dr. Pinsky that it wasn’t something they thought they could do. One of the young women mentioned that it takes an especially strong person to go through a pregnancy and then give up her baby. 

It does take a strong person but more than that, it takes a tremendous amount of unconditional maternal love to give life to a child and hand the child to someone else for keeping and care.

But the point is that true maternal love for the an unborn child means giving the child life. Abortion is selfish and only takes, it doesn’t give. Sadly, Markai’s second child is gone and that decision will be with Markai for the rest of her life. Note: Laura Echevarria is a opinion columnist. She is the former Director of Media Relations and a spokesperson for the National Right to Life Committee and has been a radio announcer, freelance writer active in local politics.