Pro-life (but weird) subplots in pilot of ABC's sci-fi "Defying Gravity"

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When reading pro-abort complaints about Fox's cancellation of an episode of Family Guy involving abortion, I also read laments about pro-life themes in ABC's new show Defying Gravity. Feministing's Jessica fleshed that out (pardon the pun) a little more yesterday.

Backdrop of Defying Gravity, in an August 2 review by Todd VanDerWerff of A.V. Club, when the 1st 2 episodes aired...

Defying Gravity is about the 8 international astronauts who are headed off on a 6-year mission to explore all of the planets in the solar system, their 2 trainers and the folks at Mission Control, who will oversee the voyage. It freely cuts between present-day stories onboard the spaceship and flashbacks to the training period, which allows the show to establish, mainly, who's slept with whom and how this has affected all of them.

Surprisingly, abortion and embryonic stem cell research enter onto the pilot scene. VanDerWerff again:

Also, there's an incredibly clumsy discussion of abortion politics....

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The show seems to be doing a pretty competent job of arguing against abortion at various points, but it always ends up defaulting to using it glibly. We're supposed to know 1 character needs more of a conscience, for example, because she so blithely dismisses it, and the haunted spaceship uses abortion (without spoiling too much) as a scare tactic.

Having science fiction tackle political issues is always fun, but it doesn't feel like anyone on Defying Gravity has thought out too much how they feel about abortion beyond using it as a prop within the show's universe. (It also doesn't help that one of the show's major points against abortion involves destroying rabbit embryos, something even the most hardened anti-abortion person wouldn't even bat an eye over doing.)

Warning, plot spoiler ahead.

So this is where our pro-abort friend Jessica picked up yesterday:

The anti-choiceness is just dripping off of ABC's new space-drama Defying Gravity. (So disappointing, because I was stoked about having another SciFi-ish show to watch in addition to the new V.)

Defying Gravity is set in 2052, when it seems abortion - and even pregnancy tests - are illegal. Also in this future world, astronauts are super hot 20-somethings who f*** a lot and everything else looks pretty much the same as 2009. So yeah, I'll try to take it with a grain of salt. But sh** like this just irritates me:

Ok, it's ridiculous that pregnancy tests would be illegal in the future, so I agree with VanDerWerff that show developers haven't thought the topic of abortion through, i.e., pros, cons, goals, and rationales. Continuing with Jessica (bold highlights hers)...

You see, this character got an abortion. As punishment, she will hear a crying baby for the remainder of this episode. Her colleague - presented as the hardened woman who advises her to get an illegal abortion - is later shown as a bunny murderer in the second episode. (Well, sort of.) But wait! More crying baby scenes, please!

Okay, on to the feminist bunny-murderer. (She's actually performing tests on rabbit embryos, but that's crazy babykiller talk!)

So yeah, you see where I'm going here.

What is it with abortion and television? The only TV show I can recall watching that even had a character obtain an abortion was Third Watch, in which a cop who has a recovering alcoholic husband, 2 kids and financial woes decides to terminate her pregnancy. I remember liking it because it was matter-of-fact, and the character makes a decision she knows is best for her family, and isn't punished after the fact for it. (Like by ghost-baby cries, for example.)

The fact is, 1/3 of women in the U.S. will have an abortion. And they won't hear crying babies, or fly into murderous rages, or have mental breakdowns, or conveniently get a miscarriage when they make the "right" decision not to abort. (These are all storylines from actual TV shows and movies, by the way.) Would it really be so hard to have a show accurately depict abortion and women's decisions surrounding it? Well, maybe in 2052.

That last link to "A timeline of abortion stories in popular U.S. media" was interesting. I was unaware of it.

More interesting is the longer legalized abortion is with us, the more stigmatized it becomes, as reflected even in liberally-made movies and television.

This is because there is increasing evidence to Joe and Jane on the street that abortion kills children, and that aborting mothers do hear crying babies, have mental breakdowns, and suffer infertility, including miscarriage.

Not sure on the murderous rages, although all stats point to a drastic increase in child abuse and homicide since abortion was legalized (for instance, this report stating child abuse rose 300% between 1977-1992, this report stating child homicide rose 39% between 1997-2007, and this HHS report stating child abuse "nearly doubled" between 1986-1993). And I thought abortion was supposed to take care of unwanted children.


Comments:

The interesting fact is that I watch a lot of tv. Third Watch is not the only show where abortion is "no big deal". Sex in the City, Seinfeld and Private Practice are two right off the top off my head where characters say they had one or multiple abortions and they are fine with the decision. However, there are several that have the theme of abortion is not okay with them (Friends, According to Jim, One Tree Hill to name a few).
On the topic of child abuse, I am a social worker who has worked in the child protective field. Most of the parents that have abused their children do not consider abortion. Is it possible that if society says it is okay to kill the most innocent, then what does it matter to harm those who have taken breathe? They are still "in the way, cost too much, remind them of something they want to forget"? Just a thought.

Posted by: kmann at August 6, 2009 10:12 AM


About that hearing-the-crying-baby thing...

When we prayed in front of Planned Parenthood during 40 Days for Life, the ladies and I all prayed that as the women entered the facility, they would hear the sound of a baby crying.

I think the thing to do is research the writers of the show in question and see if they have been involved in prochoice or prolife advocacy.

Just a thought.

Posted by: carder at August 6, 2009 10:17 AM


Kmann, I agree, but I have to say the abortion episode on Sex & the City was pretty balanced. Samantha had had a few and of course did not regret them. Carrie had one and was thoughtful about it and went to see the father about it. Miranda found herself pregnant, went to the clinic but couldn't go through with it. When she told her friends, they were overjoyed that they would soon be aunts.
(Can you tell I'm a SATC fan?)

Posted by: Peg at August 6, 2009 11:06 AM


Wow, it's an odd plotline, but I suppose that if women don't do the culturally accepted line of, "And now my life is awesome!!!" with not one but three exclamation points and a smiley face at the end, then it's a downright frustrating plotline.

But the truth of the matter is that women are put into difficult positions such as these (baby or career?) and have to act based on what circumstances throw at them, quickly but not too quickly. And, obviously, that leaves a lot of trauma. Jessica Valenti argues that that's why abortion is a good thing, because circumstance, but when women don't do the black and white fallacy of being happy at the end of the day, she's furious with them?

I've never actually asked this about anyone before, but who does she think she is? The savior to all women? Women share a gender not a brain.

Posted by: Vannah at August 6, 2009 11:28 AM


"(It also doesn't help that one of the show's major points against abortion involves destroying rabbit embryos, something even the most hardened anti-abortion person wouldn't even bat an eye over doing.)"

What is this supposed to mean? Of COURSE one wouldn't want to do such a thing.

Posted by: bmmg39 at August 6, 2009 11:29 AM


LOVE this line:

"And they won't hear crying babies, or fly into murderous rages, or have mental breakdowns, or conveniently get a miscarriage when they make the "right" decision not to abort. (These are all storylines from actual TV shows and movies, by the way.)"

Tell that to the hallucination my broken mind came up with. And I'm a guy. Then this:

"Would it really be so hard to have a show accurately depict abortion and women's decisions surrounding it?"

Clearly, somebody didn't do their research.

Leaving myself out of it for a second - dismissing the genuine pain of a woman that regrets the decision just to bolster one's belief in a pro-choice mindset is very callous. I look forward to explaining this VanDerWerff asap. Grrr!

Posted by: JP Prichard at August 6, 2009 11:42 AM