When learning that MTV’s popular show 16 and Pregnant would take on the issue of abortion in a special episode, I felt two very strong emotions – hope and unease.
Hope because I felt it could be one of those changing moments in time – a moment that although small could change the dialogue surrounding abortion by giving it a human face.
Unease because I feared what impact telling their stories would have on these brave, brave young women.
Well, after having just watched the episode, I have to say that I am in complete awe of the three young women who shared their stories with us tonight.
I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been to make the decision they did and then to share that choice with the world as they did tonight. My hat is off to them and I feel hopeful that their stories will change some minds or at the very least create more understanding around the choice of abortion.
James and Markai: Choosing Abortion
One out of 4 teen moms will have a repeat birth within two years.
Such was the case for James and Markai, a couple who had previously appeared on 16 and Pregnant. Despite their unplanned pregnancy, the couple was able to finish high school, begin saving for college, and even move in together.
However, after Markai missed a birth control shot, she found out she was pregnant for a second time. The couple had not been using condoms. Confronted with another unplanned pregnancy, Markai and James had a big decision to make.
So many teen moms who choose abortion do so in secret. Luckily, Markai had the support of many people in her life while making this decision. After discussing her options – parenting, adoption, or abortion – with her partner James, close friends, an abortion counselor, and her mother, Markai made the choice to have an abortion.
James helped Markai weigh the consequences a second child would have on their family. Her close friend Samarra and mother provided her with support and comfort, and the abortion counselor she called provided her with the information she needed to make an informed decision in a non-judgmental manner.
In making her decision, it is clear that Markai took into consideration the needs of her partner, her baby, herself and her entire family’s future. You see her struggle with the decision, weighing all her options, but she ultimately decides that abortion is the best choice for her family.
James: “And it’s like. I mean it’s not only setting us up to fail [having the baby], but on top of that setting up our kids to fail and that’s one thing I’m never going to do.”
Markai: “Let’s be real. We can’t take care of another baby. It’s not an easy decision but it’s the best.”
The Shame of Abortion
Two years after having an abortion, Dr. Drew tells Markai that most women feel like they have made the right decision.
When he asks Markai if she feels she made the right decision, she says, “I have mixed emotions right now. I’m still confused. It hasn’t been long enough for me to really comprehend or understand…”
But Dr. Drew assures her that feeling confused is normal and part of the process to which Markai responds, “I think society puts a lot of that on you.”
Bingo! The shame and stigma associated with abortion makes the choice that much more difficult for women to choose or even talk about, but the women who make this choice don’t do so only thinking of themselves.
Markai: “I just want my baby (her first child, Zacary) to grow up happy and to have a better life. Nobody ever wants to have an abortion. No one is pro-abortion. No one puts abortion first…but you have to do what is right.”
Natalia’s Story: A Responsible Choice
Natalia, another women who appeared in the MTV special, found out she was pregnant when she was 17 years old. She was in a state that required parental involvement for an abortion, so she petitioned a court to get a judicial bypass, which she was granted.
Not wanting to disappoint her parents or make them sad, Natalia and her ex-boyfriend were on their own (they had broken up a month before she found out she was pregnant). Together they came up with the $750 for the abortion.
When asked how she felt about her decision, Natalia says “I’m not ashamed at all. I’m proud of what I did!” It was the “responsible choice” to make.
Shame and irresponsibility are often the adjectives we hear when abortion is discussed, so it was refreshing to see the decision described as the opposite.
Katie’s Story: A Parenting Decision
Katie, the third woman who appeared on the MTV special, found out she was pregnant the summer before her senior year of college and coincidentally two weeks before her 18-year-old sister had given birth to her first child.
When asked how she felt after her abortion, Katie says she was relieved and did not feel a lot of regret or negative feelings. She does recognize the “sentimental” aspect when being around her nephew and thinking “what if?” but she knew she made the right decision.
Katie also remarks that her decision to have an abortion was a “parenting decision.” It wasn’t something she did to have “an easy way out,” but a decision she made taking into consideration the needs of her unborn child.
Katie notes how important it is for her to share her story because dialogue surrounding abortion as a “parenting decision” does not exist.
Each year, approximately 750,000 teens get pregnant in the United States and nearly a third chose abortion, but we never hear their stories.
The heavy stigma our society places on anyone who touches abortion – the women who make the decision to terminate, the doctors who provide the procedures, the activists who fight to keep this right alive – makes it virtually impossible to honestly discuss abortion from a personal perspective. That’s why MTV’s special tonight was so important.
The courage, honesty, and strength Markai, James, Natalia and Katie showed tonight was awe-inspiring. Making the decision to have an abortion is a complex decision made even more complicated when you consider the shame and secrecy surrounding the procedure. Women need a space to share their stories to break down these walls and make abortion a truly viable option for women.
Did you watch No Easy Decision? What did you think about it?
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