Tonight’s 16 & Pregnant to Feature Storyline About Abortion

On Tuesday at 10pm/ 9pm central MTV will air a new episode of their hit reality television show, 16 & Pregnant. While the show has often been accused of glamorizing teen pregnancy and criticised for ignoring the complexity of teen abortion, it seems to have struck a chord with its audience. Since my own interaction with the 16 & Pregnant staff and crew filming No Easy Decision, I gained a new respect for 16 & Pregnant and the difficulty of portraying teen pregnancy in an ethical way. Still, I couldn’t help but be a little dismayed by the fact that only abortion-related discussion on the show aired at 11pm in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve – not exactly peek viewing hours.

My hope is that this week’s episode will bring some much needed attention to the abortion option, within the context of other parenting decisions.

Briana’s story will primarily be focused on her decision to continue a teen pregnancy and her struggle with life, love and her new daughter. Certainly the focus is on Briana, as it should be – the show is called 16 & Pregnant after all. However, within Briana’s story is the story of her older sister Brittany, who also finds herself facing an unplanned pregnancy. Through Brittany’s abortion took place without the cameras, her experience remains a factor in the family dynamic.

Sound familiar?

The story is shockingly similar to the circumstances of my own abortion – which took place the day my 18 year old sister brought my nephew home from the hospital. Apparently the producers at MTV thought so, too, which is why they put Brittany and me in contact with each other so we could chat before the show.

We did, and much of what she had to say resonated with my own abortion experience.

She explained that, more than anything, she wanted viewers to understand that her abortion decision wasn’t something that she did for herself, but that it was something that she did for her family and because of the context of her pregnancy. She chose to share her experience alongside her sister’s story because she wants to be able to help other women.

And she will. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that sharing your abortion story can be an incredibly profound thing, and that it can bring a lot of comfort to women that you’ll never meet.

Every day I receive emails and comments from women and girls who have had or who will be having an abortion. Hearing someone else’s story helps them to feel not alone, and affirms and validates their feelings – feelings that are so often silenced and stigmatized in today’s pro-choice vs. pro-life world.

Brittany (and Briana) may not know it yet, but by sharing their stories they are helping countless people feel affirmed in their own experiences, validated in their own struggles and hopeful for their own healing.

Unfortunately, we know that those who are opposed to abortion are ruthless, and that they often turn to harassment and cruelty in order to silence those who speak out in favor of the option of abortion. In order to counteract that, and to provide support for Brittany, Briana and their family, I’ve resurrected the hashtag #16andloved

Please use it when tweeting about the show, to share your comments or to provide messages of support to Brittany and her family. 

The show will air Tuesday April 3rd at 10pm/9c on MTV.

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  • sschoice

    There are aftershow discussions with Brittany and Briana up already on a MTV blog, though the show itself will air later tonight:

    ’16 And Pregnant’ Exclusive: Brittany Opens Up About Her Abortion [Video]
    Posted 9 hours ago by Lisa Chudnofsky in 16 and Pregnant, Top TV Shows

    This exploration of feelings between sisters, one who chose to terminate her pregnancy and one who didn’t, is probably very sympathetic to both, but the blog writer makes a overly colorful choice of words (underlined/blued text was hyperlinked in the original text):

    “Briana confesses in the first interview clip below. “It makes me wonder, if I would have had an abortion, that could have been me.” But Brittany is dealing with her own demons. “I don’t have anyone to talk to about the abortion at all,” she comments in the second video. Surprisingly, she spoke to us rather candidly about it.

    Stating that Briana “confesses” and Brittany is “Dealing with her own demons” is not the best choice of words, it’s more than a little misleading (though maybe unintentionally so) and it doesn’t seem to reflect the feelings conveyed in the clips referrred to on that page.  We ought to watch the episode that these “aftershow” comments were recorded about, of course, but just quicky listening to the aftershow remarks it sounds like Brittany is not especially uncomfortable not talking about the experience with peers, from what little she says here it seems that her choice to not talk much about this is more a matter of complex family dynamics than having chosen to have an abortion.

    That’s to be expected, the people she’d want to talk with this about are likely going to be others who have shared the same experience, and with fewer older teen women today than in decades past having had the experience of an unintended pregnancy — or an intended pregnancy — the experience of “not talking” about the experience is more common today than in the past. 

    And that of course makes shows like this, and groups like Exhale who provide some nonjudgemental structure and support for women who have chosen to terminate their pregnancies all the more important.

    —southern students for choice, athens