Tim Riggins tries to console the unexpectedly pregnant Becky SprolesLast week's Friday Night Lights episode "I Can't" took on the subject of unwanted pregnancy and abortion -- and no, the producers did not back away from the tough topic by giving the character of Becky Sproles an out like a false alarm or a falls-down-the-stairs miscarriage. And no, Becky did not ultimately opt to have the baby or carry the child to term for an eager adoptive couple. Becky has an abortion -- a story we don't see very often on prime time television.
I have to say I was happy to see this storyline air. No matter your opinion about abortion, it is our obligation to put a face and a story on this very real fact of life. Teen girls (and adult women) across the nation want, seek, and have abortions. Isn't it our responsibility to consider their stories -- even if that's only by walking in the shoes of a fictional character with an unwanted pregnancy for an hour or so?
Too frequently when abortion is depicted on television, it just shows up in the list of "options" but is rarely the chosen option. And if it is the chosen option, then it's usually because the pregnant teen was raped or a victim of incest, which forces viewers to have a more tender heart on the topic.
However, these depictions do not represent the more common experiences of many young women in America. Unwanted pregnancy as a result of rape or incest, while heartbreaking and traumatic when it does happen, is not where the most prevalent dilemma about abortion lies. The most prevalent dilemma is simple: some women find themselves in an unwanted pregnancy and, for a million different reasons, do not want to continue the pregnancy.
Simple but not easy. Not easy for the woman in the situation and not always easy for outsiders to understand. Simple and yet incredibly complex.
Like many of the storylines on Friday Night Lights, especially those that consistently show what the NYT calls the "consequences of parenthood pursued by accident or default," it was a refreshing to watch this episode. The writers took on the topic of abortion head on and asked us to consider one young girl's story.
Becky's story is a common one. A believable one. And we were allowed to watch a young woman come to an incredibly difficult decision in a conservative Texas town. Amid the teen father of the baby Luke Cafferty's gentle "I'll help you raise this baby" pleas to the "You're getting an abortion!" demands of her own mother, who was a teen mom herself," Becky makes a choice while we watch.
In a crazy-good heart to heart with Tami Taylor, the show's moral compass and one of my favorite TV moms, Becky Sproles pours out her story.
"We don't have any money. I'm in the tenth grade. It was my first time. And I threw it away. And I don't want to throw my life away."
And then Becky shares her experience:
"It's just really obvious that my mom wants me to have this abortion. Because I was her mistake. And she has to struggle and hurt every day and she wanted better and I knew better."
Then we get a taste of her struggle:
"And I was just thinking, forget what she wants. What do I want?"
And her hope (eyes full of stars):
"And maybe I could take care of this baby and maybe I would be good at it. And I could love it and I would be there for it."
And her painful reality based on growing up her mom's "mistake":
"And then I just think about how awful it would be if I had the baby and then I spent the rest of my life resenting him. Or her."
And ultimately, we hear Becky's truth.
"I can't take care of a baby. I can't."
When Becky asks Tami what she would tell her daughter if she came to her in the same predicament, Tami says, "I would tell her to think about her life, think about what's important to her and what she wants. And I would tell her that she's in a real tough spot. And then I would support whatever decision she made."
Bravo to FNL and NBC for allowing us to take a look at the topic of teens and abortion from a realistic place.
Did you see this episode of FNL? What did you think? What do you think about how abortion is depicted (or not depicted) in the media?
Image via NBC