The Netflix drama Thirteen Reasons Why has been no stranger to controversy since it premiered. The first season received heavy criticism for romanticizing suicide, with studies finding a 28.9 percent increase in suicides among children within the time frame of the show’s debut. After the show featured graphic depictions of sexual assault and a problematic portrayal of a school shooting, the show runner’s decided the third season should involve a teenage girl having an abortion. But, instead of providing a way for both sides of the abortion debate to have a meaningful discussion, the show chose to address the issue by misrepresenting the pro-life movement.
With Hollywood TV writers advocating for more abortion scenes in television shows, it was not a huge surprise when 13 Reasons Why actress Anne Winters announced back in June that the show’s third season would feature an abortion episode. Winters plays Chloe, whose character was revealed to be pregnant in the previous season’s finale after having been assaulted by her boyfriend, Brcye. With Winters being confident that her character would consider abortion, the second episode of the third season shows her obtaining one.
While media outlets like Bustle praised the second episode of the third season for its “realistic look at a woman’s right to choose,” it is worth noting that the audience is not allowed to view the procedure through the abortionist’s perspective. The removal of what the clinician in the scene described as “uterine content” is not shown to the viewer, as the camera deliberately focuses on Chloe’s face throughout the abortion.
Considering the fact that Netflix has worked with Planned Parenthood in the past to create abortion scenes, with the notorious abortion provider even serving as an advisor for Netflix show creators, it’s clear that the show runners were only interested in showing one side of the debate. The show failed to feature just one pro-lifer that the audience could empathize with and try to understand her perspective, which is strange, as the series extended a bit of sympathy towards Bryce—a rapist—prior to his death.
Aside from its demonization of pro-lifers, there is another point that is worthy of note, and that is the fact that most of the Netflix series’ audience is young and female. Through its portrayal of Chloe’s unplanned pregnancy, the message that the series offers to its female audience is that abortion is the only option. Instead of acknowledging the other resources that are available to women in this situation, the show runners tried to impress upon their audience that the only solution to an unplanned pregnancy is to end a baby’s life.
In an effort to further hand-wave abortion alternatives, 13 Reasons Why has Chloe visit a pregnancy resource center after she mistakes it for an abortion clinic. The counselor who tells Chloe that their center will offer her the resources she needs “so she and her baby can go on to have full and wonderful lives” is framed as manipulative for making it seem like Chloe had another choice. But the inaccurate portrayal of pregnancy centers—places that frequently offer pregnant women free housing, material resources, and other support—was only the beginning of the episode’s attempt to portray pro-lifers in the worst way possible.
Once she decides to go through with the abortion, her friend Zach takes her to the clinic, where they encounter a group of protesters shouting at them. A woman wearing a clinic escort vest takes Chloe by the arm and begins to walk her through the crowd, only to reveal that she is one of the protesters. The woman tells Chloe that “killing is a sin” and that Chloe “will regret this day until [she] die[s]” before tossing a model of a dead fetus into Chloe’s hand.
There was no effort to acknowledge the sidewalk advocates who lovingly reach out to women outside abortion clinics, nor did they show the advocates who simply stand outside the clinics and pray for the women there. Responding to the episode, Sidewalk Advocates for Life said:
“While the episode accurately depicts many of the common emotions surrounding an unexpected pregnancy–issues thousands of real American women face every year–unfortunately for Netflix viewers, the subplot so grossly and inaccurately mischaracterizes modern-day sidewalk advocacy and sidewalk counseling in front of an abortion facility, that it can only be understood as abortion propaganda.”
Netflix’s latest show overestimates its ability to talk about serious issues like abortion, as it would rather propagandize and convince viewers to obtain one than offer alternatives. By undermining risks associated with abortion, it’s clear 13 Reasons Why is more interested in glamorizing abortion than it is in presenting the truth to its young audience.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.