'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' joins shows that are dealing with abortion in a refreshing, honest way

Posted on Nov 12 2016 - 7:18am by Huzoor Bux


LOS ANGELES – “Mom, I’ll get it [the door] since you just had an abortion.”

That line is how Crazy Ex-Girlfriend viewers first find out that lovable sidekick/bff Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) has decided what to do about her unwanted pregnancy.

“You’re a good son, Brendon,” Paula replies jokingly, as she lies in bed after the procedure.

The blunt exchange happens in Friday’s episode of The CW series, marking the second show recently – following Jane the Virgin —  on the youth-centric network to tackle abortion in an honest way.

Abortion has of course been depicted on the small screen before. But in the last year, shows have increasingly dared to portray abortion and unwanted pregnancies in in a more realistic way. 

The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend episode — titled “When Will Josh and His Friend Leave Me Alone?” — comes as many across the U.S. are worried an impending Donald Trump presidency may threaten the Supreme Court’s historic Roe v. Wade decision. Nearly one third of women in the U.S. decide to end a pregnancy at some point in their lives, according to Planned Parenthood.

While the nation continues to debate over women’s rights, TV has come to its own conclusion: Not only is abortion a woman’s right, but it’s also something that should be normalized not dramatized.

“She [Paula] found out very early she was pregnant,” Aline Brosh McKenna, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend showrunner, told reporters at a recent screening of the episode. “There wasn’t a specific reason behind it [not showing the actual procedure]. She makes the decision she’s going to do it, we see her connect with her husband and Rebecca after.”

It’s especially significant to showcase abortion in this way on The CW, a network skewed toward younger audiences and home to a slew of superhero shows including Supergirl and The Flash. 

The network has shown it will not shy away from making abortion a normal part of storylines in its shows. Its recent episode of Jane the Virgin showed Xiomara (Jane’s mom, played by Andrea Navedo) grappling not with her choice, but with how to tell her more conservative mom she had one. 

In FXX’s You’re the Worst, Lindsay (Kether Donohue) reveals her impending abortion to BFF Gretchen (Aya Cash) during a lunch. The abortion itself is also treated more like an afterthought in the episode as a whole, which is mostly about Jimmy (Chris Geere)’s attempt to build a treehouse.

“We’re treating it very matter-a-fact,” series creator and showrunner Stephen Falk told The Hollywood Reporter in a recent interview. “Lindsay encounters an abortion protester but just thinks she’s a nice lady who wants to give her advice, and Gretchen sees this and runs over and is like, ‘No, terrorist, you’re not going to stop us from using our women’s rights.’ And the woman just says, ‘You know, in certain cases I think this is acceptable, and this is one of them.’ And then she just has the abortion, and then that’s it.”  

Amazon’s Good Girls Revolt – which takes place in the 1970s and premiered this month – also decides to depict abortion. In the episode, a secretary named Angie (played by Danya LaBelle) is pregnant and tried to self-abort by taking tansy oil, an herb that many women used as an abortifacient before Roe v. Wade. Her co-workers raise enough money for her to have an abortion.

“Planned Parenthood helped inform our storyline about abortion,” Darlene Hunt, executive producer of Good Girls Revolt, said in a statement. “We wanted to depict not only the emotional weight but the pragmatic challenges and health risks faced by women in 1970 who sought an abortion.”

Like women’s rights, TV has also come a long way.

The first, daring portrayal of abortion on TV came in 1972, just before Roe v. Wade, with the show Maude. The titular character, played by Bea Author, finds out she is pregnant at 47. After talking to her husband, she decides to have an abortion. Back then, CBS affiliates refused to air the episode, and over 24,000 people sent letters protesting the network.

Planned Parenthood is encouraged by the changes being made by TV.

“Planned Parenthood is encouraged by the recent portrayals of what it’s like for women who decide to have an abortion,” Caren Spruch, director of arts and entertainment engagement at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a recent statement. “TV shows can help challenge stigma and change the conversation about abortion.”



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