‘Scandal’ Showed Olivia Pope Getting an Abortion and People Are Outraged

23 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Both sides pressure Mizzou over Planned Parenthood ties.

Thursday’s Scandal included the most realistic depiction of an abortion in TV history. (Praise Shonda!) Forty-three years after Maude, why is this still so controversial? “Controversial,” sadly, is still the most apropos word to describe an abortion scene in an episode of a television series that draws exponentially more eyeballs than the news each week, and which stars Kerry Washington as one of the strongest, most gloriously complex characters of color in TV history. The Ohio House of Representatives Tuesday voted to reroute federal money to any federally-approved health clinics which do not perform abortions or associate through contract with any which perform abortions, including Planned Parenthood.COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A Democratic state lawmaker has formally complained that she was not recognized to speak during House debate on defunding Planned Parenthood.

It’s heartening to see a show as popular as “Scandal” tackle the issues of abortion and the increasing right-wing attempts to stigmatize not just abortion but all reproductive health care through their relentless abuse of Planned Parenthood.Women’s advocates were hailing the shocking pro-Choice plot twist on Thursday night’s “Scandal” featuring the Republican president’s live-in girlfriend undergoing a procedure that many Republicans want to restrict.COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Abortion rights opponents delivered about 590 letters to the University of Missouri about the university’s decision affecting a Planned Parenthood clinic’s ability to perform medically-induced abortions.

The scene was part of Scandal’s aggressively promoted winter finale—it’s not just show creator Shonda Rhimes who wanted you to see this story played out, it was, in a refreshing surprise, ABC, too. The bill, House Bill 294, coordinated the reassignment of nearly $1.3 million in federal and state grants from places such as the “Violence Against Women Act,” the “Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative,” and the “Infertility prevention project” to health clinics meeting stipulations outlined in the bill. But it’s also depressing, because it seems that the widespread popularity of being able to have sex without making babies is no obstacle to the fundamentalist fanatics who want us all to live by their abstain-or-suffer morality.

Which made it all the more dissonant to hear the song near the end of Thursday’s mid-season finale of Scandal, as—spoilers ahead—Olivia Pope laid down on a table in a clinic to have an abortion. Kathleen Clyde, of Kent, told House Clerk Brad Young in a protest memo Friday that lawmakers have a constitutional right to express opposition to any bill that comes up for a vote. This week, the Republicans won another battle in the war on Planned Parenthood, which is the right’s shining symbol of the evils of sexual liberation, when Ohio Republicans barring Planned Parenthood from accessing a set of federal grants. Scandal, as millions of fans will attest, is a show where political corruption, torture, assassination, and terrorism regularly figure into weekly episodes.

It’s right before Christmas and Congress is attempting to pass a new spending bill before Santa comes, everyone leaves for holiday break, and, you know, the government doesn’t shut down. There was, as there usually is, a bunch of high-minded faux outrage about abortion from Republicans trying to justify these cuts, but readers who have been following this will not be surprised to find out that the funds in question do not go to abortion services. But the decision to show a woman undergo a legal procedure felt especially shocking—largely because television is still so skittish about abortion, even more than 40 years after Roe v.

But when Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young), the former first lady and now junior senator, notices that Planned Parenthood is classified under discretionary funding according to the new bill, she raises a red flag. Planned Parenthood in Ohio risks losing over $1 million in public funds under the measure the House passed, which resembles one approved by the Senate. She sees through the bureaucratic bull: If Planned Parenthood’s funding is discretionary and not guaranteed by law, the Republican Congress is going to chip away at it until it can no longer exist. Screengrab from GetYourCare.org, showing the 280 health care providers which, if Ohio Governor John Kasich signs the bill, will absorb Planned Parenthood’s federal funding Ohio Governor John Kasich, a candidate in the 2016 presidential race, is expected to sign the bill, which now heads to the Ohio Senate, where it is also expected to pass. No, the funds that were cut were from two major programs: A grant program for STI testing (including HIV testing) and another program to reduce infant mortality.

In the instance that a major female character on a show contemplates ending a pregnancy, she rarely goes through with it, and if she does, it’s depicted offscreen. Rhimes glosses over the fact that Grant is a Republican herself, and has her speak on behalf of women. “As much as I would like to get home for the holidays, I refuse to do it at the expense of women’s health,” she says. A similar bill passed in the Senate in October 23-10. “I’m not gonna jeopardize anybody’s health, but Planned Parenthood ought to learn that what they were doing was not acceptable,” Kasich said at a campaign event in New Hampshire. “We don’t think [a shortage of health care centers] is a problem, because there are many different entities that can handle this, from our hospitals throughout the state of Ohio to our federal clinics.” The measure passed 62-33 along party lines, with one Democrat, Bill Patmon, voting yea and two Republicans voting nay. So Scandal should prove a meaningful example to other shows moving forward for the straightforward, unflinching, but sensitive way it handled the big moment.

Taking the floor, Grant tells fellow senate leaders she can’t vote for funding the bill and calls Planned Parenthood’s services “basic human rights.” After the episode, Planned Parenthood applauded Rhimes’s decision to address the real life choice that one in three women have made in their lifetime. “Shonda Rhimes used her platform to tell the world that if Planned Parenthood lost funding for contraception counseling, STI testing, cancer screenings, and safe, legal abortion millions of people would suffer,” the organization said in a statement. Mellie filibusters the bill until the deadline runs out and it can’t pass, using the hours it takes to run down the clock to list off the asinine things that are guaranteed funding under the new bill—fancy urinal cakes, a travel budget for state pageant queens, research on the “hangry” (hungry and angry) condition—while Planned Parenthood remains vulnerable. It’s obviously not the first time TV has tackled abortion as an issue — but the medium has has come a long way since the 1972 episode of “Maude” that featured Maude Findlay’s unplanned pregnancy at age 47 and subsequent termination.

Planned Parenthood so far has responded with social media posts attacking Ohio representatives, which they call “extremists,” especially for their list of providers, which the corporation has called unsatisfactory. The episode was largely about the ex-First Lady and now-Senator Mellie Grant filibustering a spending bill that would have threatened Planned Parenthood. Then as now, the abortion episode came as the nation was debating a woman’s right to choose. “Maude” aired one year before the Supreme Court’s Roe v. For much of the episode she’s working behind-the-scenes to help Mellie’s cause, rallying people to assist her in pulling off the exhausting filibuster. The only consistent thread here is anger and hatred towards sexually active people, especially those who are low income, and seeking ways to make it likelier that people who dare have sex fall on hard times, from denying the contraception to denying them abortion to making it easier for them to get sick to even, and this is how low the “pro-life” movement has sunk, making it likely they will lose a baby in childbirth.

It wasn’t preceded by handwringing or debate between Olivia and other characters, including Fitzgerald Grant, the President of the United States and Olivia’s boyfriend. Today, “Scandal” looked at the ongoing political ramifications of that ruling, with the Republican-led House voting to defund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of women’s health care services, including abortion. It was the second time ABC’s political thriller addressed the topic of abortion — an episode on season four featured a story line in which a female Navy officer was raped and needed help getting an abortion. “It’s still a controversial topic after all these years. We’re in a presidential campaign and she [creator Shonda Rhimes] tapped into something that was going to get people talking whether you agree with it or not,” says Marc Berman, of TV Media Insights.

Here are Republicans, telling you that services are available if you need a low cost OB-GYN to help you through a wanted pregnancy, but when you actually get pregnant and seek those services, ha ha! It ran on CBS from 1962 to 1968 and showed a widowed Lucy Carmichael sharing a home with Vivian Bagley, a divorced woman at a time when divorce was still a scarlet letter. In addition to “Silent Night,” there was a voiceover by Olivia’s father, Rowan Pope (who, among his share of crimes, orchestrated the death of Fitz’s son): Family is a burden … a pressure point, soft tissue, an illness, an antidote to greatness. You think you’re better off with people who rely on you, depend on you, but you’re wrong, because you will inevitably end up needing them, which makes you weak, pliable. As Redden reports, in two counties, Planned Parenthood has been running the prenatal program for two decades now, and that will be shuttered completely.

Wade made abortion legal throughout the country, Bea Arthur, as the title character of the show “Maude,” made a controversial TV decision: She had an abortion. At the Television Critics Association in 2015, Crystal said: “I did it in front of a live audience, and there were times where I would say to Bob, ‘I love you,’ and the audience would laugh nervously, because, you know, it’s a long time ago, that I’d feel this anger.

The sentiment—that family is destructive—may have figured into Olivia’s personal reasons for not going through with her pregnancy, but the speech isn’t meant to serve as a broad rationale for why women have abortions. In May 1992, Brown gave birth to a boy, and later that month Vice President Dan Quayle roundly condemned the show for “mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice.” There’d been rumors both about the actress’s own sexuality and about a possible on-screen revelation from her character for months when DeGeneres came out personally with a TIME cover story in April 1997. And because the show let that spirit infuse Thursday’s episode—Rowan’s soliloquy had the Shakespearean quality of all his speeches—the abortion scene felt organically like a part of the larger story the season has been telling. A few episode after the pilot, it was revealed that the shadowy, bandaged figure named Alexis was actually the post-transition version of magazine editor Alex Meade.

Sure, it was making a massive point: that even a financially stable, healthy woman who’s pregnant by the most powerful man in the world is entitled to make a choice about her own body. That same year, Candis Cayne played a transgender character on “Dirty Sexy Money” but since then there have been other characters, notably Laverne Cox as Sophia Burset in “Orange is the New Black.” But it’s likely that the show won’t turn her choice into a source of emotional distress, or use it as some poisonous secret that could come back to haunt her. Using the word “abortion” 11 times, compared to, for example, the three times it’s used when Miranda considers it in an infamous episode of Sex and the City, it was as if the show was attempting to desensitize the word.

Shonda Rhimes discussed both topics—pop culture’s confusing erasure of abortion from its TV shows and the reason Olivia is at peace with her decision—in a 2014 interview with TIME. The episode, airing four years ago, was also obviously controversial, but, in her interview, Rhimes seemed nonplussed, calling the omission of such a storyline on television “weird and unrealistic.” And it’s realism that is the source of the so-called controversy this time. The scene in which Olivia has the abortion is interspersed with a scene in which her father, quite poetically, delivers a monologue on family: “Family doesn’t complete you.

It destroys you.” More, to heighten the realism, Rhimes doesn’t do the typical TV thing and end the episode there, with the gut-punch and shock of the Olivia’s pregnancy and abortion hitting the audience in one huge wallop.

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