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Private Practice and Public Laws: The Patronizing Lectures that Television Depicts and Texas Now Requires

Last Friday afternoon, I watched an episode of Private Practice that had aired the week before and was not all that surprised when one of the story lines focused on abortion. The show, which follows the lives of a group of doctors in Los Angeles, has dealt with the topic a number of times before.  It is clear that the writers and producers don’t just support a woman’s right to choose but are willing to risk alienating some viewers in order to use the show as a platform to promote reproductive rights.  In fact, though I often find the writing predictable and overly melodramatic (the show is one of those guilty TV pleasures), I think the writers have done a great job with the abortion debate.  They have given characters a chance to express both sides of the issue but in the end they always present well-reasoned, and even well-researched, arguments for why the right to “safe, legal abortions, without judgment” is so important. 

Still, I was struck by one scene in this episode which reminded me of the mandatory “counseling” some states are now making women go through before they can exercise their legal right to terminate a pregnancy. 

The episode, “God Bless the Child,” focused on the clashing views of two OB/GYNs, Dr. Addison Montgomery who performs abortions (and has had one) and Dr. Naomi Bennett who is opposed to abortion for religious reasons.  A patient, Patty, comes to Addison with uterine cramping and stomach pains about a month after having had an early abortion. It turns out the procedure was not done correctly and the woman is now 19 weeks pregnant. Addison explains that she can still legally have an abortion but that at this stage of the pregnancy it is a more complicated procedure. Patty decides to do it, but Naomi approaches her in the waiting room and pretty blatantly tries to talk her out of terminating her pregnancy.

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