Abortion is making the rounds on network television again – and the media are all for it.
Now in its fourth season, ABC political drama Scandal aired its 21st episode, A Few Good Women, on May 7. The show starring Kerry Washington, featured a military woman who became pregnant from rape – and her 30-second long abortion scene. Rather than condemning the rape, some in the media, including US Weekly and The Wall Street Journal, expanded their stories to praise the “groundbreaking” and “powerful” abortion scene.
Created by Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy), Scandal stars Washington as Olivia Pope, a former White House Communications Director who now heads a crisis management firm where she is “protecting and defending the public images of the nation’s elite.”
When Vice President Susan Ross visits a naval ship for a photo-op, she notices a bruise on Ensign Amy Martin. After a one-on-one conversation with Martin, she tragically discovers Martin is a victim of rape and asks Pope to look into the case.
Martin later admits to Pope that a decorated admiral raped her – and, when she discovers she’s pregnant, begs Pope for help in obtaining an abortion.
“You have to do something for me, okay?” she pleaded. “I have to get off the ship. I need you to get me an abortion.”
“If the admiral finds out that I'm pregnant, that there's actual physical proof...” she added.
At first Pope was hesitant about the “procedure” – because the unborn baby provided proof of rape.
“I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't tell you that if you could just wait a few weeks before you have the procedure,” she said. “At eight weeks, we can test the DNA and use it against him in court. We can win this. We can get you justice.”
But Martin insisted on an immediate abortion.
“Oh, I can't. I'm sorry. I can't spend another second with that man's...” she gestured to her stomach. “I need to do it now. You have to get me off the ship.”
To grant Martin’s wish, Pope creates a strategy – an imaginary sick relative – to get Amy off of the ship and into an abortionist’s office.
During the 30-second abortion scene, Pope holds Martin’s hand as an abortionist turns the “vacuum” switch on.
In their reaction, online media hailed the show’s abortion plotline.
US Weekly’s Mehera Bonner called the abortion “a pretty groundbreaking scene –– especially for network television” and noted the show’s “strong pro-choice stance.”
For The Wall Street Journal, Cicely K. Dyson praised the “Shondaland show [that] understands the complexities that come with pregnancies from rape.”
“It’s rare to see a character on the table with the machines whirring and a trusted friend at her side as the procedure takes place” on television and the movies, she wrote. “It was a powerful moment for the show and for people on either side of the pro-life debate.”
Also chiming in, Vulture’s Luvvie Ajayi said, “[T]here’s a good (as it could be) ending for Amy Martin.” In other words, “She gets her abortion, while Liv holds her hand.”
“The abortion was handled with care,” she continued, “not through the lens of judgment, and it was a strong statement: a show run by a woman showing a woman literally stand by another who made a tough choice for herself.”
“Thank you, Shonda and team!” she concluded.
None of the writers noted a tragic side of abortion.