The NBC series “Parenthood”’ has drawn raves from TV critics this season for a storyline about a fortysomething mother fighting cancer. Then on January 1, NBC asked viewers to tune in the following Tuesday for an “unforgettable” new episode. A teenager would get an abortion at Planned Parenthood. Such is NBC’s definition of “parenthood.”
Drew, one of show’s leading teenager characters, has an ex-girlfriend named Amy who comes back to tell him “I’m pregnant.” The high school seniors go to the Planned Parenthood clinic, and the scene plays like a political commercial.
The counselor says, “If you decide to continue the pregnancy, we'd be happy to refer you for prenatal care. Of course there are resources for teen moms who decide to raise a child. Adoption is also an option for you to consider. Now, if you decide to end the pregnancy, you have two options.” But then NBC swells the sensitive guitar-strumming music up. They don’t really want viewers to hear the abortion pitch. Oh, the irony.
The couple return to the car. Says Amy, “Well there’s only one option, right?” Drew replies, “That’s not the only option.” But Amy is traumatized: “If I have this baby, my life is over!” You can almost feel her channeling her inner Barack Obama. She doesn’t want to be “punished with a baby.”
Drew isn’t so much pro-life as he is pro-Amy, wanting to convince her he supports her choices, and hoping for a future with her. “Look, obviously I'm gonna support you no matter what, that's all I'm saying.” This neatly matches the laughable new Planned Parenthood slogan, selling the idea of their neutrality on abortion: “Care. No matter what.”
Care to murder a child if you believe the fetus to be a child?
The girl blankly insists, “I need help coming up with the money.” Guess what Planned Parenthood called it on Twitter: a “refreshing” episode about “the real issues teens face.”
After the off-camera abortion, Drew drives Amy home, and asks if he can call later. She thanks him for the ride, but says she needs “a lot of space.” At episode’s end, he arrives home crying and falls into his mother’s arms. Is the crying from the trauma of the abortion? Or is he just distraught at being dumped by the girl? NBC ends the show without any actual explanation. Of one thing we can be certain. NBC will never portray him as guilt-ridden for taking the life of his own child.
The next week’s episode skipped this life-and-death chapter completely, but not for long. On January 22, the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade abortion decision, the story arc wrapped up in a brief scene placed smack-dab in the middle of the show. Drew shows up on Amy’s doorstep and says he’s been accepted to college at Berkeley. She says she’s been accepted to Tufts in Boston. With the realization that this “love” will never last, Drew gives Amy a hug and they say they’ll never forget each other, and he leaves. Life goes on – for them, anyway.
At the end of that episode comes the obnoxious feint toward “balance.” Two adult characters smile at a sonogram of their unborn baby. They’re apparently old enough to be “punished” with it.
The abortion plot gets sillier if a viewer rewinds back a few episodes to November to the beginning of this “unforgettable” plot. Seemingly out of nowhere, Amy shows up at Drew’s home and agrees to sex with the boyfriend she had freshly dumped just because she felt sorry for him that his aunt was suffering with cancer. “Reality,” 90210-style.
This isn’t the only recent teenage abortion on TV. In 2010, NBC’s “Friday Night Lights” featured a high school freshman getting an abortion after her high-school principal hinted at that “choice.” It’s not a coincidence that both episodes were written by the same man – Jason Katims. He told Entertainment Weekly in 2010 NBC offered “minimal drama” in reviewing the episode. “I honestly felt surprised that there wasn’t more of a conversation about it.”
Entertainment Weekly felt compelled to editorialize back then on behalf of more TV abortion scenes: “That there was so little uproar around the episodes proves we may be ready for a real discussion that television can lead — if it so chooses.” But only if that “discussion” is stilted toward sexually rambunctious children killing their unwanted babies.