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Grey’s Anatomy, Cristina Yang, and Abortion

by | Sep 27, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

The character Christina Yang

I don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy largely because I have very limited time for television viewing. So I would never pretend to understand the emotional ebbs and tides that lurk beneath the decision of surgeon Cristina Yang to have an abortion on the last episode.

The creator of the show, Shonda Rhimes, who also functions as the showrunner (which I gather is the person who watches over the day to day details) is on the board of Planned Parenthood, Los Angles. So it’s no surprise that she wanted an abortion as a plot line in the first season (it’s now the show’s eight season) but opted for “the medical reality of Cristina having the ectopic pregnancy and collapsing in the O.R. and that’s how Burke [the child’s father] finds out that she’s pregnant.”

Rhimes gave an interview to New York Magazine about Grey’s Anatomy

“Recent abortion Story Line.” Her remarks are worth reading.  But it makes for far more nuanced understanding if you also take a few minutes to read the comments made by readers who strongly suggest the abortion made little sense on any level.

Rhimes tells New York Magazine that abortion is just part of life.

“I didn’t want to do an episode [puts on ponderous voice] ‘The Grey’s Anatomy: Abortion Episode.’ Like, that wasn’t the point. I think for me the point is it’s a painful choice that a lot of women have made in their lives and we just wanted to portray it honestly and with a really good conversation that I think started in the season finale and carries over in this episode. 

But as the readers point out this is this super-driven, super-smart surgeon’s second unintended pregnancy, which tells us….what? Her husband opposed the loss of his child in last season’s finale but gets browbeaten into acceptance. And contrary to Rhimes’s insistence, there is apparently no communication between Yang and her husband about a decision that deeply divides them and offers the potential to destroy the marriage.

Rhimes tells us there was no real opposition to her abortion plotline in Season One and even less in Season Eight, no doubt in part a reflection of her growing muscle. (She is currently in production on three TV shows.)  

The other thing is that Rhimes insists she has no “agenda.” She is just being true to the characters and Yang isn’t the mothering type.

“I feel you have to portray all different sides of who people can be if you’re going to create a world.” Which leads us to Naomi, a character in another show, Private Practice, who “was staunchly anti-choice, staunchly pro-life. Viciously so, in a lot of ways, in a way that I thought was really kind of beautiful and religious and different from the way I think at all” (emphasis mine).

Well, how’s that for “portraying all different sides”? Can’t be more sympathetic than that. Addison, on Private Practice, is an abortionist. What do you think the chances are that she comes across as “viciously” pro-choice?

I realize it’s “only television,” but Rhimes IS using her power to send a message over a media that remains influential. Sadly, Grey’s Anatomy has joined “Friday Night Lights” in having a main character abort.

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Categories: Abortion