MTV airs its stand-alone special about teen abortion, No Easy Decision, tonight at 11:30 p.m. — and having previewed it exclusively, I can report that it’s as sensitive, unflinching, and brave as the network’s hit series 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom (which have yet to tackle, and have barely mentioned, the A-word). Most of the hour follows Markai and James, a couple featured in the second season of 16 and Pregnant, as they wrestle with how to handle Markai’s second pregnancy less than a year after giving birth to daughter Za’karia. At the six-week mark, they decide, through heartwrenching discussions with each other, a friend, and Markai’s mother, to end the pregnancy mainly due to severe financial constraints. (James explains that he wants a better life for his daughter than he had growing up: “I’ve been without water, I’ve been without lights, I’ve been without food.”) And while pro-life critics will likely find fault with the show just for existing, no one can accuse the documentarians of making abortion look easy or fun. We witness everything from Markai’s tearful (and informative for viewers) call to the clinic to ask about abortion methods, to a post-procedure argument with James during which he refers to the unborn fetus as a “thing.” As she snaps, “You will never feel my pain,” it’s clear that we won’t, either, unless we’ve been through a similar situation. But this special gets as close as possible.
Articulate in-studio discussions moderated by Dr. Drew Pinsky follow the documentary footage — first with Markai and James, then with two other young women who chose abortion as teenagers. With one in three women ending a pregnancy sometime in their lives, it’s certainly worth exploring in detail — and with the heated controversy surrounding the issue, it’s hard to overstate how courageous it is for these girls to share their stories with the world. “No one is pro-abortion,” Markai explains, “but you have to do what’s right.”