The Missing Pieces in MTV’s Abortion Special

Markai cries

Markai cries on the phone as a clinic worker describes abortion procedures

Something was conspicuously missing from MTV’s “No Easy Decision,” a special episode of their series 16 and Pregnant, that follows a young couple as they decide whether or not to have an abortion. It was something pretty big to leave out of an abortion-themed show. What was it? Abortion.

As long as the show has been on the air, abortion supporters have been bemoaning the lack of abortion in it, but MTV has chosen not to make it a part of their presentation of teen pregnancy until now.

The special followed James and Markai,a young couple who had been on the show during their first pregnancy in a previous season, as they decided whether or not to abort their second baby. The program had its fair share of flaws and holes, but the thing that struck me the most was how hard the show fought to avoid the reality of abortion.

Reality of Abortion Swept Under the Rug

The word “abortion” was almost never heard in the show. In a program supposedly about abortion, I’ve never seen less discussion of the actual issue. There was a pained effort to constantly say “the procedure” instead of abortion. The clinic itself was not shown, not even the waiting room. There was much talk about how difficult the decision was, but no talk at all about why.

Why would the show’s producers go to such lengths to avoid abortion? The only conclusion I could draw was that they intended the show to do its part in the ongoing effort to de-stigmatize abortion, and talking about abortion in plain language undermines that purpose. In the brief moments when a cheery abortion clinic employee did discuss the various abortion methods over the phone, Markai eventually hung up the phone in tears saying she couldn’t talk about it anymore.

When James slipped and called the baby a “thing,” Markai broke down in tears. James quickly covered his tracks, reminding her that the abortion clinic employees told them not to think of the baby as a baby, but just as a clump of cells.

Anytime the show’s producers let a glimmer of the reality of abortion shine through, the pain and regret beneath the surface became visibly and viscerally apparent.

Humanity of the Baby Just as Neglected

No Easy Decision

If the reality of abortion was danced around and avoided in the most elaborate fashion, I was perhaps more shocked that the humanity of the unborn child didn’t even seem to be a thought in anyone’s head. It didn’t even look like they were trying to avoid this consideration—it just wasn’t on their radar.

All the couple’s discussions about whether or not to abort their child had nothing to do with the child himself, but rather with James, Markai and their 8 month old baby Zakaria. What they would be able to afford, what kind of life they would be able to live, how they would get by.

James repeatedly defends the choice to abort (which he was obviously pushing for from the start) by saying that he’s experienced poverty and would never want to put anyone through that if he could help it, referring to himself, Markai and Zakaria.

But what about putting someone through vacuum aspiration and dismemberment? No consideration was given to what effect the abortion would have on their unborn child who was very real and very much alive.

After the abortion there was a scene with Markai, visibly and admittedly very sad, playing with Zakaria. She repeatedly professes her love for her older child and says something very telling though she seems to have no idea of its import. She says, “Mommy will do anything and everything for you.”

But the unspoken, heartbreaking subtext was that she would do anything, up to, and including, killing Zakaria’s little brother or sister so she could have a more comfortable life.

The Sibling Effect

The unborn baby’s humanity was also neglected in the conspicuous lack of discussion of the effect a sibling would have on little Zakaria. I couldn’t imagine who my children would be without each other, and they’re still all toddlers. I can’t imagine who I would be without the impact my siblings had on my life.

The benefit a family receives from having more people to share love and life with, to help shoulder burdens and ease hard times, can hardly be overestimated. But literally no concern was given to this aspect of their decision.

Their decision was chillingly economic, and the show’s producers seemed more than happy to portray their choice to abort their child as justified because of the potential economic benefit of having one less mouth to feed.

Markai and Zakaria

Markai holds up a new dress for Zakaria

This approval was made clear when, at the very end of the show, Markai was talking to Zakaria about how she would now be able to provide her with everything she wanted, and held up a new dress on a hanger. But how will they explain to Zakaria that they sacrificed her sibling so she could have nice dresses?

Where Was the Choice?

The other giant missing piece in the special was choice. The couple said several times that they felt they had no choice but to have their child aborted. The economic situation they were in made them feel they had no real options, and nobody, especially not the abortion industry, offered them any real choice at all.

Planned Parenthood and their allies are forever criticizing the pro-life movement for wanting to force women into undesirable situations, but here we see the reality. When the rubber meets the road, the abortion clinic offers one option to the pregnant woman: killing her child in an effort to give her what they market as a better life.

My Body My Choice

But pro-life pregnancy resource centers (which were conspicuously absent from the show despite being easily found across the country) offer real choice and real options. They offer help with medical costs, help with daycare, help with employment, help with food and clothes. They offer real options and real choices, not a last ditch, dead end option.

Which is why, despite all their mistakes in reasoning and their grievous mistake in aborting their child, it was clear that James and Markai were victims of the abortion industry. The abortion industry, tired of all the positive portrayal of birth, wanted an advertisement for their services and James, Markai and their baby were the ones who had to pay the price.

But in the end, despite all the show’s efforts to put a happy face on abortion, the tears streaming down Markai’s face throughout the program told truth that far outweighed all the euphemisms, obfuscation—and the outright propaganda—about what abortion really is.

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