English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: Abortion

Decisions… Decisions in Grey’s Anatomy

Every episode of Grey’s Anatomy shares a common thread that ties the whole episode together. In some specific episodes, however, the commonality is a theme or concept usually concerning debates within the medical world. Episode 4 “Save Me” really delves into the foggy part of the medicine as it concerns ethics and a patient’s choice.

Doctors and surgeons are tasked with helping the sick to the best of their ability and to “do no harm” according to the Hippocratic Oath. Then comes the question of whether a medical professional should perform a procedure that might do harm, if that is the patient’s choice.

Ultimately, the patient has the last word.

The topic of abortion is one of the most common dividing arguments. On one hand there is the health of the mother especially if the birth is going to have complications, but also, there’s an unborn life that can’t speak for itself. As Cristina meets a woman who wants to keep her baby even though it will kill her, she can’t understand this mentality as she is trying to save lives. In another situation, Alex, another intern, is tasked with helping a girl who needs a heart valve replacement. However, due to her religion, she won’t let them put a pig’s valve inside her.

Throughout the episode, the interns and patients go back and forth. The interns know that at the end of the day, decisions are ultimately up to the patient, yet this doesn’t stop them from wanting to convince the other party to save themselves. In both the situation of the abortion and the heart valve, both patients inevitably concluded to have treatment (though the girl settled on a cow heart valve).

To me, this episode showed more clearly than any other, the stance of the show’s writers. “Save Me” is saying that doctor must respect their patients wishes, but that the best treatment plan is the one that will elongate someone’s life, and that these kinds of decisions shouldn’t be based on morality or religious views. This kind of conversation is really big in the medical world and political world at the moment with things like STEM cell research, assisted suicide and abortion. Even for a medical show, that’s a really heavy theme to put into a 45-minute episode.

Abortion in Glow

In the eighth episode of the first season of Glow, Ruth discovers that she became pregnant from her affair with Debbie’s husband, Mark. This dilemma is used to introduce the theme of abortion and provide input on the pro-choice versus pro-life argument. Ruth – already embarrassed and ashamed by the affair, attempts to remain as secretive as possible about her pregnancy and her choice to have an abortion performed. She has no real hesitation in making the decision to have an abortion performed. Not only is she single and a struggling artist and is therefore in no real position to raise a child, she also presumably would not be able to work on Glow while pregnant and would further damage her relationship with Debbie and Debbie’s relationship with Mark. Thus, Ruth can make the decision to have an abortion with relative ease, and with Sam’s aid she goes to an abortion clinic and has the operation performed.

Ruth confirms her decision to have an abortion with the doctor

The writers of the show use this story line to exhibit how there are scenarios where a woman is not able to have a child, and in doing so makes the argument that women should have the choice to have an abortion. This argument is representative of the show’s cultural stance and input into the hotly debated and controversial topic of abortion prevalent in modern-day America. This concept that women should be able to have control of their lives and be able to make their own decisions ties back into the general theme of the show that women should be able to be independent and self-sufficient. The entire idea of a female wrestling league exhibits the concept that women are perfectly capable of doing tasks traditionally associated only with men. The fact that the main character, Ruth, is single and living alone, putting herself out into the world to try to pursue her dreams and support herself further reinforces these themes.

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