Like other dedicated Shondaland viewers at the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF), I was excited to see last week’s episode of Scandal tackle the very important topic of rape and abortion in the military. The episode, titled, “A Few Good Women” continues the show’s trend of exploring the complex relationships and power dynamics at play with regard to race, sexuality and systemic lack of power.
Television can be frustrating because there is a tendency for people and problems to be oversimplified. Scandal is not always an exception to this, but we’ve seen time and time again compelling ways that current problems in American life are lifted up, carefully critiqued and addressed by the end of the episode. The abortion in last week’s episode is a great example of this. I cheered to see abortion portrayed on television the way it so often is in real life: as a decision that Ensign Amy Martin is sure about and knows she wants. As a result of her sexual assault, Martin becomes pregnant and knows she wants her abortion as soon as possible. She’s able to get her abortion, supported by Olivia, who’s holding her hand in the groundbreaking scene. I can’t overstate the importance of a network TV scene featuring people supporting each other through an abortion, and the difficult life experiences before and after. Collectively, we’ve been starved of that vision of a very common procedure, and that allows the stigma around abortion to flourish. Media representations can both reflect and shape the culture around it, and our cultural products have long been silent, or disparaging of our reproductive options.