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Sometimes Women Other Than Irresponsible Teenagers Have Unplanned Pregnancies

By Emily Cutler | TV | November 17, 2016 |

By Emily Cutler | TV | November 17, 2016 |

As we adjust back to “normal” life around here (while still remembering this is not normal ), I’ve found it oddly refreshing to remember how much I like TV. Specifically, I’d overlooked the fact that Jane The Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend made their returns, and are both still kick-ass shows. Kick-ass shows that don’t mind including kick-ass women having kick-ass abortions. But before we move ahead: SPOILERS



In an episode of Jane the Virgin last month, Xiomara had an abortion after an ill-advised one-night-stand with Rogelio’s arch rival Esteban (writing about Jane the Virgin plots is honestly the best thing). The pregnancy had been set up for a hot minute as something that would either force Rogelio and Xo back together, or add a large amount of strife to their relationship. Luckily for us, the writers knew that was straight bullshit. Xo had an abortion off screen during the summer break, and it seemed to be no big deal. She explained to Rogelio that if she didn’t want kids with him, she wasn’t going to have kids with anyone. Alba was predictably pissed when she found out, but otherwise it wasn’t really an issue. More on that in a second.

Then on last Friday’s episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Paula had a No Big Deal Abortion. She had struggled with her decision more that Xiomara, but her struggle was more in the context of not knowing how she’d be able to go to law school and afford the time and money required for another kid. She spent most of the pregnancy arc easing herself into the realization that her law school dreams wouldn’t come true. Until she was reminded what a kick-ass lawyer she’d be, and terminated the pregnancy.

So why is any of this noteworthy?

1) Women Above The Age Of 24 Get Abortions Too
We’ve had a few examples of women getting NBD abortions before, but they’ve been on the younger side. The implication that either only young women are irresponsible enough to become pregnant when they didn’t want to be, or that older women would automatically have the resources to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. Not only does that not reflect reality, it’s not in keeping with TV’s early day abortion stories. In fact, two of TV’s earliest abortions were performed on older characters, and, get this, nothing bad happens to them. WHAT?

2) Mothers Get Abortions

In one of the weirdest guidelines this country has ever set, we almost never see women who have had children and decided not to go ahead with an unplanned pregnancy. It’s a concept we still seem to not thoroughly understand. Women who never want to have kids can get abortions while we prefer tearful young women promising themselves they will have children one day. Just. Not. Yet. But we don’t really see mothers having abortions. Which again does not reflect reality. Fifty-nine percent of women obtaining abortions had at least one previous birth, and according to the NBC link above 80 percent are married. Meaning your average woman getting an abortion looks a lot more like Paula Proctor than Fiona Gallagher. But we don’t seem to accept that. Once the baby spigot goes on, it stays on. If you’re able to care for one child, you are able to care for two or three, your future plans be damned. But Paula and Xo didn’t miraculously give up their right to choose after becoming mothers. Bodily autonomy actually does apply to even those women who had babies.

3) Their Abortions Weren’t Big Goddamn, Dark Secrets

Before you say it, yes, Xiomara hid her abortion from Alba and Paula has not yet told Rebecca about hers. But not sharing with everyone isn’t the same as keeping a secret. Paula had the support of her husband and (worthless) sons, Xiomara had the support of her daughter, son-in-law, and ex-boyfriend. She eventually had the grudging acceptance of her very religious mother, which I think is about as close to support as Alba would be able to give. Both women chose to keep elements of their abortions private, but neither was made to feel ashamed. Even if you’ve never watched Crazy Ex-Girlfriend you might want to watch this episode just to hear Paula’s delinquent son shout, “Mom, I’ll get it since you just had an abortion.” That’s comedy, people.

Now since this was a post about moving away from the election, and back to normal life, I don’t want to politic it up too much. But I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that what might be most unrealistic about two 40-something-mothers obtaining guilt- and shame-free abortions is that they both seemingly had little-to-no trouble obtaining access to said abortions. Regardless of what the Nuclear Pumpkin Elect does with the Supreme Court or Congress, abortion access is becoming more and more restrictive. We are still in the middle of the fight, people. Donate if you can. Volunteer if you have time. Contact your elected representatives, and tell them to knock this shit off. Do it. If not for the fundamental right of all people to govern their own bodies, then do it for your TV plots.