'Scandal' Gets Praise and Backlash for Controversial Abortion Scene
By John Boone
(WARNING: This story contains spoilers for the winter finale of Scandal, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”)
There won’t be an Olitz baby on Scandal anytime soon.
In the season five winter finale that aired Thursday night, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) had an abortion after learning that she was pregnant with Fitz’s (Tony Goldwyn) child. In the same episode, Mellie (Bellamy Young) successfully filibustered a bill that would have defunded Planned Parenthood.
“I have this feeling that #Scandal is gonna have a lot of people talking tomorrow...,” one fan live tweeted during the episode. To which Washington responded, “I think you might be right.”
Sure enough, come Friday, the episode proved quite controversial. Planned Parenthood released a statement, applauding Scandal for the storyline:
“Tonight, the millions of people who tune into Scandal every Thursday night learned that our rights to reproductive health care are under attack. Never one to shy away from critical issues, Shonda Rhimes used her platform to tell the world that if Planned Parenthood lost funding for contraception counseling, STI testing, cancer screenings, and safe, legal abortion — millions of people would suffer.
“And this episode wasn’t the first time one of Rhimes’ characters had an abortion, yet tonight we saw one of our favorite characters make the deeply personal decision that one in three women have made in their lifetime. We applaud Shonda Rhimes tonight — and every Thursday night – for proving that when women are telling our stories, the world will pause and watch. We just hope those in Congress — and throughout the nation — who are steadfast on rolling the clock back on reproductive health care access are taking note.”
In addition, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards tweeted:
Meanwhile the conservative watchdog group Media Research Council blasted the episode as “sick,” saying the episode was "Hollywood’s moral depravity on full display.”
“The entire hour was an advertisement for Planned Parenthood, but the absolute worst scene was a montage set to the Christmas hymn "Silent Night," a song that celebrates the birth of Christ, while main character Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) has an abortion, killing her and the president's baby,” MRC wrote on their blog.
Last year, showrunner Shonda Rhimes told TIME that abortion is “a polarizing issue, obviously.” “Because it is such a hot button issue, because people are debating it, it should be discussed,” she reasoned. “I’m not sure why it’s not being discussed.”
Stars Washington and Young, as well as co-star Portia de Rossi and Orange Is the New Black star and fan Laverne Cox, took to Twitter to defend the episode and show their support for Planned Parenthood:
Love that @ShondalandTV never shies away from the important issues like women's health being under attack in this country right now #Scandal