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by cathyjwilson
DECEMBER 30, 2010 10:39AM

MTV makes it tough for abortion special to reach viewers

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If you haven't seen the MTV half-hour documentary "No Easy Decision," which follows 16 and Pregnant teen mom Markai through her decision to get an abortion, you'll have to watch it online here -- that's because not only did MTV post the special at an 11:30 p.m. time slot on a Tuesday -- well past the usual 16 and Pregnant 10 p.m. slot -- but MTV won't be airing the special again for at least another week, according to its own online TV schedule.

Initially I was going to write solely about the content of the special (read the live blog commentary here from Jessica Valenti, Shelby Knox, Jamia Wilson, Lynn Harris, and Steph Harold), but the lack of airtime caught my attention, and I think it sends a message about the extent of MTV's progressiveness. This special is good. It's important. It's honest. It's thought-provoking. And unfortunately, it's only a half-hour long and runs not even one time again within the week of its premiere -- because God knows we need to see a three-day marathon of Jersey Shore instead.

This documentary is not getting the airtime it deserves, and even though its being in existence is remarkable and a great step forward in furthering the abortion discussion, it can't be ignored that MTV didn't treat it equally in comparison with 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, which have never shown a teen mom getting an abortion and only have shown two of the three options when it comes to pregnancy -- raising the baby or putting it up for adoption.

I think the lateness of its airing, the fact that it aired once on a channel where every new episode of any show is repeatedly played over and over again (16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom always aired again right after ending at 11 p.m. and always again the next day, usually around 8 or 9 p.m.), and the shortness of the episode itself only added to a stereotype that the special was trying to combat -- that women who get abortions must think it's just an in-and-out procedure and don't even really think about all their options.

Obviously, getting an abortion is a time-sensitive decision, as 37 states have a restriction on abortions after a certain point in the pregnancy. But the special itself was only 20 minutes long, with about 10 minutes reserved for Dr. Drew interviewing Markai and her boyfriend, and then Dr. Drew interviewing Katie and Natalia, two women who also had abortions and who shared their experiences.

"There are just no easy decisions," Dr. Drew concluded at the end of the special, which is a very true statement, but one that wasn't conveyed as well as it could have been with a special that was an hour long and didn't rush through the thought process, steps, and emotions that Markai (or Katie or Natalia) experienced in deciding to get an abortion.

I wish that the discussion that Dr. Drew was having with the three women after the special could have lasted longer, as those women had so many important things to say in respect to the discussion on abortion, and so many things that only a woman who has gotten an abortion can truly express.

"People assume that if you are having an abortion you are denying the fact that you're a parent, but it's not, it's not at all," Katie said. "Nobody wants to have an abortion," Markai said. "In retrospect I'm not ashamed at all, I'm proud of what I did," Natalia said. These are the statements that get drowned out -- these are the honest, real accounts and thoughts that enrich a discourse on abortion, and that change the stereotypes people have about the "kind of person" who gets an abortion, or what goes through someone's head when she decides to have an abortion.

So despite MTV choosing to air reruns of Jersey Shore for three days straight instead of showing even one more time this special, the half-hour documentary still crams in a lot of important dialogue and information. Markai weighed all her options, called a clinic to get information on all the types of abortions and how they would affect her physically and emotionally (the live bloggers pointed out how (1) the counselor was extremely helpful and nice and (2) the clinic was legit), and looked to her boyfriend James and her mom for support and advice.

I also found it important that Markai's story be highlighted for two reasons. One, someone obviously was not providing her with complete information about birth control, a sentiment repeated by Katie in the after-interview. Markai had no idea that the birth control immediately left her system if she was not up-to-date on her shots. Katie also said she wasn't aware the side effects from her birth control -- she would get physically ill and throw up the pill -- would make it ineffective.

"I should've looked my birth control up on the Internet or something, you know, it's my job to keep up with it," Markai said. I completely disagree -- you shouldn't have to search the Internet for information on your birth control. You should ask your doctor, and your doctor should be providing information about side effects without you having to ask, just like any other medication.

Two, Markai got an abortion for the sake of her daughter. "If I didn't have Za'karia I couldn't do it, but I gotta think about my baby," Markai said. I think this is especially necessary to highlight because Markai described her abortion as something she was sacrificing for her daughter -- so that her and James could provide for their daughter without having to put her through the poverty, hunger, and sometimes neglect that both Markai and James experienced growing up. Anti-abortion activists want to call abortion selfish, though Markai proves it is quite the opposite, while also proving how complicated of a decision it is.

This topic gets me heated because these are important pieces of information that aren't prevalent in the mainstream media. You don't see resources for information on abortion (like here, here, or here); you don't hear women who have had abortions as prominent voices in the discussion; and you don't get a glimpse into the life of someone deciding to get an abortion as the decision is being made. Statistics and facts and figures aside, women struggle with the choice. There a multitude of reasons for making such a choice. And it's important to listen to these stories and see that it's not as easy as black and white, yes or no, right or wrong.

And because abortion is so complex, so sensitive a subject, so full of emotion, I think MTV did a real disservice to Markai, as well as Katie and Natalia, and the subject of abortion itself, because though it is one of the three main choices a pregnant woman can make, MTV seemingly makes its own judgment call on abortion by limiting how long the special is, when it is aired, and how little it is aired.

Again, it's great the special aired, but people actually have to watch it in order to gain something from it, and that would mean MTV would actually have to air it more than once. Luckily it's online, so again, go watch it.

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