Yes, I was one of those people who kept abreast on Scandal episodes. Saw some, missed some.
Scandal is a political thriller that follows the career and personal life of Olivia Pope, a Washington, D.C. “fixer.” She runs a crisis management firm that protects the public image of high-profile clients. The drama usually focuses on her extramarital affair with the President of the United States.
I wasn’t home during the mid-season finale, which aired on November 20, 2015, but heard about the abortion episode—one that caught everyone by surprise. Fans of the show immediately took to Twitter; many didn’t appreciate how the subject was handled. Some, even those who identified as pro-choice, were upset that “Silent Night” was playing in the background as Olivia underwent the abortion procedure. Others found it perplexing that the former First Lady, Mellie Grant, who is now a Republican senator, was not only pro-choice, but filibustered a bill that would effectively defund Planned Parenthood.
Reactions included: “And I thought the Planned Parenthood bias was bad as the [episode] began . . . will never watch again”; “Way too far. I am disgusted at the show I love so much. PlannedMurderHood and Silent Night. I am textless”; and “In what alternative universe is a Republican filibustering to make sure Planned Parenthood gets funded?”
The stars of the show tweeted their support not only for the episode, but for Planned Parenthood. The actress who plays Olivia Pope, Kerry Washington, is a real-life spokesperson for the organization. Planned Parenthood and its president, Cecile Richards, sent separate tweets thanking Shonda Rhimes, the show’s creator and executive producer, for standing with them. Rhimes is on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles.
Now fans are wondering if the show will give them more details about Olivia’s pregnancy and the aftermath of her abortion. After all, both were revealed in a span of minutes and with no discussion.
Scandal returns in less than two weeks and promotions have already begun. The show’s stars are making media rounds to promote the upcoming season and interviewers are asking about the abortion story line, which left the audience shocked. There was no build-up to the abortion scene because viewers were not even aware Olivia was pregnant until then. It is a rare time in television when the viewers feel shut out of the main character’s life.
Recently, I came across interviews with Tony Goldwyn—who plays President Fitzgerald Grant III (Fitz) on Scandal—in which he shared his thoughts on what his character’s reaction would be to the abortion. I should emphasize that the following quotes represent the beliefs and thoughts of Fitz, a fictional character, not Goldwyn himself.
Goldwyn thinks the abortion would have a major emotional effect on the President; while Olivia Pope, he believes, is disassociated from her pregnancy.
Finding out about the abortion would be the worst thing that “ever happened to him, second to the death of his son . . . frankly, I don’t know how he’d recover from that . . . At the end of the day, it’s her body, her right, but it’s his child.” He goes on to say “I think everything would lead us to believe that Fitz would be ethically pro-life, even if he has a progressive bent like George Bush, Sr. . . . But the bigger thing is not the political question; the bigger issue is the emotional [impact].”
In the past, Shonda Rhimes has expressed her belief that our country needs a dialogue about abortion. I couldn’t agree more. However, a dialogue presumes the participation of different points of view. I wonder if Fitz will find out about the abortion and present a side of the debate the mainstream media rarely portrays fairly. Judging by Goldwyn’s comments, the President would not react as a narrow-minded male chauvinist who doesn’t care about women’s health; but rather, as a grieving father who now has to deal with the death of another child. But then again, Tony Goldwyn is not the producer of the show.
Ifeoma Anunkor is a recent graduate of Columbia Law School and lives in New York City.