Upon its debut in 2014 Jane the Virgin, a TV show on the CW network about a woman who accidentally gets artificially inseminated, received applause from pro-abortion leftists for its “normalization” of the abortion conversation. However, Nico Lang of Salon.com was unsatisfied. While applauding the show’s “non-judgemental view of motherhood,” she lamented that it “is unable to show the empathy for all the choices women have to make about their bodies.” The headline lamented “birth is the one choice that matters.”
To demonstrate her point, Lang invokes the case of Petra, the character who was supposed to be artificially inseminated in the show’s beginning, and then artificially inseminates herself. “Confusingly, the show emphasizes that it’s Petra’s body and her call, but abortion — in many ways, the least dramatic choice Petra could make here — is a non-starter. The Big A is treated as a dirty word.”
Just because she was advised against it, the by the same people who kept the last artificial insemination surprise – that it was a “non-starter” in conversation – doesn’t make it forbidden. But Lang laments popular culture’s failure to “present a woman’s right to choose in ways that are validating and non-dismissive.”
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In the late Adrienne Shelly’s Waitress, Keri Russell never considers abortion, despite the fact that she’s in an abusive, loveless marriage. Juno dismisses the procedure after its titular character gets cold feet during her Planned Parenthood visit, after a pro-life protester tells her that her child has fingernails. In Knocked Up, Katherine Heigl decides to raise a child with her one-night stand—despite the objections of everyone around her—for reasons that are unclear. In a 2007 editorial for the Huffington Post, Lisa Wade called Knocked Up “pro-life ideology disguised by dick jokes”—despite the fact that, like “Juno” screenwriter Diablo Cody, its creator, Judd Apatow, is pro-choice….Cody argued that she intended to show the “human, teenage reasons” that someone might choose not to have an abortion, which is fair, but too rarely do we ever get to see the “human, teenage reasons” that a girl like Juno might choose to terminate her pregnancy.
Not all is lost for Lang, however. She praises Grandma and Obvious Child as ideal abortion flicks.
Giving the buddy comedy and the rom-com a pro-choice twist might not feel revolutionary to some, but these films are incredibly important to women who might be struggling with the stigma of abortion. This is why Amelia Bonow and Lindy West started the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag in September: to show women that it’s OK to talk about their experiences with the issue.
For Lang, more is at stake than good TV. It is vital that pro-abortion voices speak out in popular culture if “women’s health care” is to survive.
The real danger of silence—whether that’s in TV, movies, or real life—is those against a woman’s right to choose are anything but quiet. In recent months, an ongoing Republican “investigation” into Planned Parenthood (following a number of viral hoax videos on the Internet) has sought to defund women’s health centers across the country, and it has worked. States like Texas and Ohio have already voted to cut taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, while states like South Carolina, Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, Louisiana, and Alabama have all considered doing the same. This would leave millions of women without local options for reproductive health.
For this reason, says Lang, “the show has a responsibility to show women everywhere that all of the decision [sic] they make about their own bodies are important and valid.” Finally, Lang claims,
We need to show that abortions aren’t evil or demonic; for many women, it was simply right for them. If Jane the Virgin really wants to get motherhood right, it needs to recognize all the women who choose not to become mothers through abortion — not just theoretically, but for real — and remind us why that’s OK, too.
You hear that producers? You exist to make pro-abortion talking points. To get motherhood right, you should show “mothers” rejecting motherhood as “right” in situational ethics. The goal is not to craft compelling stories for the entertainment of your audience.
One can only imagine how Salon would react if pro-lifers demanded that TV networks shoehorn conservative Christian pro-life dogma into their programs.