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.
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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.