The media dubbed No Easy Decision the MTV abortion special, but a better term would have been the pregnancy prevention special. In just over a half hour, the 16 and Pregnant spin off showed teen mom Markai Durham's birth control fail, and the heartwrenching troubles it caused for her family.
The girl first introduced to us as a pregnant 16-year-old is now a high school graduate, mother of an 8-month-old and living in a new home with boyfriend James (who finally has a job). And after conceiving Za'karia while having unprotected sex, she's finally gotten on the Depo Provera shot.
But then Markai misses an appointment for the shot, and as she tells MTV go-to shrink Dr. Drew Pinsky, she wasn't aware the birth control didn't remain in her body for awhile. It's an admission that flies in the face of many of Markai's critics, the types of people who appeared on the comment boards of our No Easy Decision preview story yesterday, castigating the teen for her choices.
Said one mother: "Respect for a teenager who couldn't keep her panties on? So she got pregnant, had the baby, lost those panties again (maybe they're running away on their own?? Tricky panties), and killed this one. And you want me to respect her? Is this a joke?"
It's no joke. Not for Markai and not for the 750,000 teens who end up pregnant in America every year and the one third of those who Pinsky said end their pregnancy with an abortion. And it's not a case of "lost panties" or irresponsibility, the knee jerk response of much of yesterday's pro-life crowd who had yet to view the show.
It's a theme that's become common on the MTV series of pregnancy shows. In a 16 and Pregant Life After Labor episode that aired last night too, teen mother Aubrey and husband Brandon admitted they used the "pull out" method because their school failed to teach them about viable contraception methods. Now on an IUD to prevent a second baby, Aubrey told Pinsky she thinks she would have gotten the IUD immediately . . . if she'd only known.
But a markedly more mature Markai than the one seen last year fighting with her boyfriend took responsibility for not using a condom back-up. "I feel like it's my fault that I'm pregnant now," she told James, who evidenced he too had grown up significantly by admitting "Everybody knows it takes two to tango."
Together the two shot down another abortion activist's myth: that it's an easy out. James talks seriously about the life they're already trying to build for Za'karia (who they call Kari) and of his own poor upbringing. Already struggling with them working and Markai planning to go to college to finally follow her dreams of becoming a veterinarian, James puts the focus on their daughter rather than himself.
And then the dopey guy with the dreads says the one thing that every man in America should hear: "We can talk about stuff, but it ain't like what a female gonna tell you."
So Markai goes to friend Chambray's house to talk about what it means to be pregnant, and considering an abortion. "I'm in love with this baby already, and this baby ain't doing nothing but making me sick," she admits.
Presented with adoption, she says it isn't an option, not with her own child there in front of her, and not with their life as it is. Even abortion would not be an option if she didn't already have a child in her life, she adds, speaking like an adult rather than the child she was on 16 and Pregnant. But when Markai and Chambray call a women's health clinic for some feedback about the options, she breaks down in tears, asking her friend to hang up the phone for her. Then she heads to see her mother.
Sarina raised two daughters by herself when her husband took off, and she was one of the rare moms to mention being "pro-choice" on 16 and Pregnant. So when Markai comes to her for support, she tells it straight. She'll support Markai's decision, but the odds are stacked against her.
The rest of Markai's story moves quickly through the abortion clinic -- which isn't shown to protect privacy, Pinsky says, although it's not clear if he means the privacy of the clinic staff or Markai -- and into the aftermath. Markai is withdrawn after the surgery, then conflicted, and finally settles into leaning on James and Za'karia. "I couldn't do that to my child," she tells the camera. "I wouldn't chose abortion as a first option for anybody. . . but this was the best choice for me. With the love of my life and my daughter, I know I'll make it through."
Returning to talk to Pinsky, joined by two more young women who have had abortions -- one at 17, one in her college years after miseducation about the pill -- Markai has made it through. She reveals she's still angry at herself for the birth control failure, and still sad. "No one is pro-abortion. No one puts abortion first. No one with a heart at least. But you have to do what's right," she says.
Society, Markai says, has put a lot of stress on her, but once again it's dopey James who says the most thought-provoking thing: "None of them are living in your shoes, none of them are going through what you're going through."
Markai gave people a chance to live in her shoes last night. "Having an abortion is not uncommon," Pinsky said. "But talking about it publicly really is." Last night, Markai spoke publicly, and shined a light on improving birth control education in this country. That could have prevented this all. Did you watch?
Image via MTV