Dear NBC: An Honest Portrayal of Young Women, Unintended Pregnancy and Abortion


It’s always important to celebrate the small victories. Especially when it comes to authentic images of young women’s reproductive and sexual health experiences in the media. Too often we seem to be presented with either an absurd caricature or misrepresentation of an abortion clinic and a young woman’s experience with one or the complete invisibility of abortion as an option (it’s continue the pregnancy and parent, continue the pregnancy and work with an adoption agency or, often, a miscarriage).

It’s why a diverse group of womens’ health and rights organizations sent a letter of gratitude to NBC CEO Jeff Zucker today for airing what they called “a thoughtful and compelling storyline” during an episode of Friday Night Lights, about a young girl facing an unintended pregnancy and utimately seeking an abortion. Praising the “honest portrayal,” the groups called the episode “groundbreaking.”

After the outrageous actions of CBS earlier this year, when they agreed to run a soft-around-the-edges but still pointed anti-choice Focus on the Family ad (which, it later turned out, was crafted with help of the advertising department of the network) during the SuperBowl this year, women’s groups are recognizing this positive media portrayal en masse.

The letter they sent is below:

Dear Mr. Zucker:

We commend your network for airing the “I Can’t” episode of Friday Night Lights on July 9.
As organizations and individuals who advocate on behalf of reproductive health and rights, we appreciate seeing such an honest depiction on network television of a young woman’s decision to choose abortion.

No television program can fully reflect reality, but Friday Night Lights showed the personal experience a woman goes through to make her choice. This episode also incorporated discussions of the state laws that can make the situation even more difficult for young women.

Thank you again for your willingness to portray the decision to choose abortion honestly, especially when most networks never show this choice or discuss it thoughtfully. We hope the entertainment industry takes note. There is room in prime-time television for constructive programming that respectfully addresses the full range of options for women facing an unintended pregnancy.

The letter is signed from a broad swath of groups from Advocates for Youth to the Women’s Media Center to NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Religious Institute and more.

For more on Friday Night Lights praise-worthy handling of abortion on television, read Gloria Feldt’s post about her own experiences with teen pregnancy and growing up in a small, Texas town, from July 2010 and Sarah Seltzer’s post from February 2010.

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