The television landscape will change tonight at 11:30 pm, when MTV will air No Easy Decision, a one-hour special following Markai and James from the second season of the reality show 16 and Pregnant “as they wrestle with how to handle Markai’s second pregnancy less than a year after giving birth to daughter Za’karia,” according to Entertainment Weekly.
Markai and James decide to end their pregnancy at the six week mark, and the show follows their journey from their “heartwrenching discussions” about the abortion through “a post-procedure argument” during which Markai snaps at James, saying, “You will never feel my pain.” Entertainment Weekly says, “while pro-life critics will likely find fault with the show just for existing, no one can accuse the documentarians of making abortion look easy or fun.”
A handful of television characters have had abortions since the 70’s, most notably Maude in the eponymous sitcom spinoff of All in the Family. This summer, Becky decided to have an abortion on Texan football drama Friday Night Lights. But this is the first time a televised special will focus solely on a real-life teen terminating a pregnancy.
Entertainment Weekly notes, “With one in three women ending a pregnancy sometime in their lives, it’s certainly worth exploring in detail — and with the heated controversy surrounding the issue, it’s hard to overstate how courageous it is for these girls to share their stories with the world.” Markai’s courage would seem less dubious if she hadn’t already appeared on reality TV, so I’m not entirely sure her motives are pure. (After all, true reality stardom can’t be achieved if you don’t stay in people’s living rooms.) That being said, though, I think there’s an even more controversial issue at hand here, and that is whether or not the decision to have an abortion should be portrayed as such a difficult struggle. Many would argue that it’s unfair to show a young girl tortured by her decision to end an unwanted pregnancy, and that doing so will only serve to stigmatize the procedure, rather than enlighten anyone about their reproductive rights.
As I’ve stated whenever this issue has come up here on Strollerderby, I am firmly pro-choice, and typically there have only been a few scenarios in which I could imagine myself having an abortion. As I get older – as my daughter gets older – and my identity as a single person continues to solidify, though, I face circumstances for the first time, really, that could potentially result in me terminating an unwanted pregnancy. I don’t imagine it would be an easy decision, but I think it would be easier certainly than if I were married and was suddenly surprised by a pregnancy.
I can’t help but wonder whether or not No Easy Decision will serve to foster an open dialogue about abortion, or simply reinforce stereotypes that conservatives already have cemented in their minds. Because Markai ultimately feels torn about her decision, conservatives will argue that abortion is a horrendous act of murder. And what will liberals get out of this? I can’t imagine much. I don’t know what Markai and James will get out of this experience either, except maybe 15 more minutes of fame in a world that glorifies personal angst as entertainment.
What do you think?