Last fall, we discussed an episode of the ABC political drama Scandal that made waves by having main character Olivia Pope abort her baby without telling the presumed father, Fitzgerald Grant (the President of the United States), she was even pregnant. The accolades from the pro-abortion crowd were both morally repugnant and politically tone-deaf, but subsequent comments by the actor who plays Grant, Tony Goldwyn, inadvertently suggested the plot could be redeemed by exploring the devastation of learning she killed his child.
Alas, that redemption now seems unlikely. During a question-and-answer panel about the show earlier this week, show creator Shonda Rhimes answered a question about whether Grant will find out as follows:
My question is, does he have to? A woman made a choice about her body that she legally has the right to make. I haven’t actually decided, but I wonder sometimes. We talk about it a lot.
The original episode was disgustingly titled “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and it appears to be just as cold in Ms. Rhimes’s heart. Perhaps a serious story about abortion fallout would be possible in the hands of more thoughtful creators, but not hers.
As always, the flippant disregard for the welfare of others is justified by reciting “her own body” like it’s a magic phrase that makes the presence of a living child with parental bonds to both his or her parents disappear. However self-centered and callous the abortion seeker wants to be is somehow noble—the baby’s body and the father’s parental rights be damned.
But then, this was always going to be the inevitable impulse from somebody inclined to glorify abortion. Somewhere along the line, what was originally billed as a way for women to assert their equal independence morphed into a way to assert dominance. Male opinions of abortion are preemptively deemed insincere and opportunistic. Fathers who dare to grieve for the deaths of their sons and daughters are met with unbelievable scorn.
This is the difference between rights and demands, between self-interest and selfishness. When pursuing a rational interest within one’s actual rights, you never have to worry about inflicting tangible harm on someone else because you’ve been respecting their rights all along. Even rights exercises that produce non-tangible harm, such as taking offense at ugly speech, aren’t normally with the dismissiveness Rhimes displays. In most contexts other than abortion, society widely recognizes that freedom comes with the moral responsibility to respect (within reason) the impact of our actions on those around us.
In other words, even if there were a “right to choose” abortion, it wouldn’t erase the basic moral imperative to show compassion for a father’s grief, even at the expense of your own comfort.
But then, subjecting yourself to a father’s feelings of agony and betrayal would be kind of a buzzkill for the “courageous woman exercising her autonomy” power trip Shonda Rhimes wants to wrap around abortion. More importantly, it would reopen the conversation about what abortion really is… and despite all the accolades she’s been showered with for “courage,” that’s a story she’s much too scared to touch.