Kathryn Jean Lopez on MTV’s pro-teen abortion reality show

Kathryn Jean Lopez has a new article on the disturbing special run on MTV
(aka evil media sewer) earlier this week, in which a young woman from the reality TV show 16 and Pregnant decides to have an abortion, and MTV’s failed attempt to normalize
the procedure and downplay the consequences.

You can read Kathryn Jean Lopez’s full article, “Not That Innocent”, here.  It is in it’s entirety a bit long, but here is some of it, edited and with my emphases and comments.

Not That Innocent
by Kathryn Jean Lopez

“Woe to you if you do not succeed in defending life.”

That was the urgency with which the late John Paul II spoke of the stakes before us in combating a Culture of Death, during his 1993 World Youth Day visit to the United States.

I think I heard John Paul II wail on Tuesday night, the feast of the Holy Innocents, commemorating King Herod’s massacre.

Before the day was through, MTV aired the reality-TV show No Easy Decision, on which Markai Durham, a recent graduate of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, had an abortion. I assume the scheduling wasn’t intentional, but it was a remarkable coincidence.

The show was dedicated to relaying the impression that the girl is all right, when she clearly isn’t.

Having missed an appointment for an injection of the birth-control shot Depo Provera, Markai found herself pregnant for a second time.

“You will never feel my pain,” she told the father of her two children, one eight months old on the show, one eliminated on it.

Her cry came after she yelled at James for being “harsh” in calling her aborted baby a “thing.” This all came just moments after, while relaying what happened inside the abortion clinic, she insisted: “Don’t call that thing a baby. That’s exactly what it is: a thing.” But she really couldn’t lie to herself. So she went on to naturally look across at her living daughter Zakaria and tell James, “A thing can turn out like that. … Nothing but a bunch of cells can be her.”

When she aborted six weeks into her pregnancy, we knew she considered her child as more than “a thing” or “a bunch of cells” – even before her post-abortion pangs of sadness and second thoughts. In the early moments of the MTV special, she announced, “I’m in love with this baby already.” [I am beginning to wonder about what sort of pressure was put on the poor girl.]

But she feared that she and James – not married even though each claims to be devoted to the other –would never have the money to pull off raising a second child without further sacrifices. She announced that she couldn’t handle the emotion of going through the pregnancy only to give up the child in an adoption. She told the MTV cameras: “Having two kids in my teenager years. It’s not the right time.”

“We can’t give Zakaria everything.” Had she not aborted, she said, “We would have to sacrifice more stuff, I mean we would have to sacrifice her life.” [“stuff”…. “life”…]

Well, of course, someone’s life was.

Markai went on: “I wouldn’t choose abortion, I mean, as a first option for anybody. It’s the toughest decision ever to make in your life. But this was the best choice for me.”  [We’ll see.]

And she ended with a hope for healing a wound that MTV was insisting wasn’t there: “With the love of my life and my daughter, I know I’ll make it through.”

Some of the post-show commentary worried that Markai would be vilified for what, by the end of the show, was presented as a “responsible … parenting decision” by Dr. Drew Pinsky’s panel of teen-abortion alums. [There’s perspective for ya!]

But please aim your vilification at the abortion industry and its abettors on MTV’s delusional TV show.

The first thing we saw Markai doing when she told us she’s pregnant a second time is get on the Internet and get the number for an abortion clinic. She called and began with a basic, clinical question about what kinds of abortions they provide. But then she got to what she really wanted to know: How would she feel afterwards? The woman on the other end, hearing the fear in her voice, walked her closer to feeling that she has no choice but abortion: “If you’re really stressed out about it, you know, it might be a relief to have it over with.

Once she got to the abortion clinic, only clinic staff could be in the room with her. Afterwards Markai recounted their advice: “Don’t think of it as ten fingers and ten toes with a forehead and all that stuff. Because if you think of it like that, you’re going to make yourself depressed. …Think of it as what it is: a little ball of cells.” Markai would later try talking herself into it: “Which is exactly what it is.”

Completely ignoring the pain so many women – and men – have relayed in the wake of 38 years of legal abortion, MTV’s sex-ed guru and house psychiatrist, Drew Pinsky, announced: “Most women two years after they’ve had the procedure, believe they’ve made the right decision.”


But No Easy Decision was an indictment of more than MTV. When was the last time any of us did anything to promote adoption? When was the last time any of us gave a thought to children stuck in the foster-care system? When was the last time we opened our hearts and homes? When was the last time we helped make life a little bit easier for someone who has?


The Holy Innocents Gospel from Saint Matthew reads:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.

And so, too, does Markai Durham. We should hear her cries, not help her mask them.

But it’s not just teen mothers wailing. I think I hear the Communion of Saints doing the same for us. We’re the laborers called to live and proclaim the Gospel of Life, to make it a real choice in the life of a girl like Markai. Woe to us if we don’t succeed in answering that call in each of our lives.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a nationally syndicated columnist. She speaks frequently on faith and public life.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Tony Layne says:

    I wonder if MTV will ever have the brutal honesty to find Markai five or ten years down the line and look at the long-term effects of her decision?

    Nah. They’re tools of the Evil Empire, fulfilling mostly the same role as Josef Goebbels’ Ministry of Propaganda.

  2. Liz says:

    “When was the last time any of us did anything to promote adoption? When was the last time any of us gave a thought to children stuck in the foster-care system? When was the last time we opened our hearts and homes? When was the last time we helped make life a little bit easier for someone who has?”

    I must say that, having adopted four times internationally and we now are in the process of trying to adopt domestically, that the evil one has made it extremely difficult to adopt in the U.S. On our present adoption we have been trying to adopt for 26 months. Besides the crushing costs it’s just plain hard. Most people have no idea the ridiculous hoops that must be jumped through to adopt. I always joke that it’s easier to raise them than the actual process of adoption. We are open to all races and many different situations, but I just think that there aren’t many babies available. It has just occurred to me recently that so many are aborted. I knew a lot were, but I think it’s much worse that I thought.

    I honestly think many many more would do what is listed above, but it’s just not that easy. The foster care system is a mess. Those poor kids. This is all so heart-breaking.

  3. benedetta says:

    What is more persuasive…
    On the one hand, Planned Parenthood, celebrated in the culture and media, preaches that the child/fetus is a bunch or blob of cells.
    On the other, Pope Benedict XVI recently said,”It’s not a question of a collection of biological material, but of a new living being, dynamic and marvelously ordered, a new individual of the human species.”
    By preaching the blob of cells terminology, Planned Parenthood has much to gain in terms of profit and retains its position in the status quo. PP wants to make money and sees the woman client in terms of a business transaction, and not in terms of her long-term health and certainly not her eternal happiness.
    In contrast, Pope Benedict does not make a profit and only stands to continue to be shouted down by the commercial media establishment. Ultimately, his concern is for the child as well as the woman’s eternal happiness and welfare.
    It’s hard for the younger generation to be convinced of the integrity of the speaker when they are trying to sell you something for their own profit. That is why ultimately Pope Benedict’s voice will be recognized for speaking the truth.
    I do find it amazing that the feminism stands by and permits the use of the pronouncement of a blob of cells…in no other context would a woman permit herself to be regarded or reduced to letting herself be referred to in any sense as a “blob”. So much for respect for women from PP and its advocates.
    And it is of course so true that international adoption is quite common nowadays whereas to adopt domestically can be very trying.

  4. bookworm says:

    Years ago — think it was in 1982 or ’83 — PBS devoted one of their Frontline specials to covering an abortion clinic, the women who patronized it, and the pro-life protesters who faithfully picketed the clinic each day it was open. It was actually (in my opinion) a fairly good, even-handed show, considering the source.

    The part I remember to this day, though, is where the cameras actually went right into the procedure room and filmed a girl of about 17 or 18 years old having a suction abortion…. she cried throughout the whole thing, and while there was no blood or guts or aborted baby parts shown, it was VERY obvious that the experience was traumatic for her and she would never want to go through it again. Too bad MTV couldn’t do the same — if they had, I think they would have, perhaps without realizing it, actually communicated a much stronger anti-abortion message

  5. Microtouch says:

    Headin’ to the Oratory. I will remember her and her’s in my prayers.

  6. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    God bless you, Liz. Best of luck.

  7. pfreddys says:

    How about MTV=Media Turned Vicious ?

  8. Peggy R says:

    What a horrific program to have to watch. Poor Markai and her innocent baby lost. I wonder why the same crowd that calls a baby a bunch of cells is typically traumatized by the bunch of cells lost often in cases of breast cancer. I haven’t watched MTV since they started airing rap in the late 80s.

    I agree that domestic adoption requirements are unreasonable and too risky for adopting parents. We adopted internationally as well after first investigating domestic options–even through Catholic Charities. [Also, relatedly, we found in 2 dioceses that CC fees for home studies, etc., were well above other agencies’, including religious, rates.]

  9. bookworm says:

    “I haven’t watched MTV since they started airing rap in the late 80s.”

    Most of you probably haven’t noticed — I didn’t know this until a few days ago — but MTV is no longer officially called Music Television, it just goes by its initials because they no longer air ANY music shows or videos. They’ve been nothing but a shill for the worst aspects of popular culture for at least the last 20 years.

    I guess contrived “reality” killed the video star :-)

  10. Thank you, Liz!

    I’ve often thought of adoption in the U.S. as a frontier still waiting to be conquered in the pro-life movement on a legislative level, but I really don’t know enough about the barriers that one faces. I do know people who, like you, opted to go overseas to adopt, but you’re unique in that you have done that but you’re also moving forward here in the U.S.

    I’d really like to hear more from you about the specific hurdles you encounter here in the U.S. and how the international route proved easier. If you’re interested, I’d like to exchange emails with you (anonymously if that suites you best) on this topic in order to gather the background necessary to write on this subject for a Catholic News Agency column.

    Louie Verrecchio

  11. irishgirl says:

    This is terrible-both for the young mother and the child she had aborted.
    Another good reason not to have TV. I have never watched MTV and never will.

  12. Bookworm–here is that Frontline special-you were right– it was April of 1983. I was not surprised to see that the location was close by my area (Philadelphia), in the notoriously poor, crime/drug infested town of Chester, Pa.


  13. Malateste says:

    I do think that the grittier bits of MTV’s smutty teen-reality programming– not just Whatever and Pregnant, but the now-defunct Loveline and all its myriad successors– unintentionally provide some interesting insights into the realities of abortion today. One of the more consistent lessons that emerged to me in the course of my many misspent youthful hours consuming such programming is just how much abortion and unwed pregnancy exist as part of a much wider network of social and moral ills. Of the women featured on these programs who’re pregnant and contemplating abortion, the vast majority of them came from difficult family situations in which they had no relationship, or only an unstable or abusive relationship, with their fathers.

    Too frequently, it seems, these girls involve themselves in a series of early, dysfunctional sexual relationships with men who were likewise abusive or unavailable; of course the sexual misconduct is a moral problem in these cases, but it also seems like an outgrowth of deep emotional pathology that effectively sets young girls up to seek out toxic and predatory relationships, and to be unable to maintain healthy boundaries surrounding sex or anything else.

    That such young women should choose to murder the babies conceived as the result of this behavior is of course horrific, but even when they decide not to abort, one fears desperately for the welfare of the children who then go on to be raised in fatherless households, put at the mercy of whatever abusive or distant partners the mother may subsequently take up with, and steadily acquiring a laundry list of damaging early experiences that will in turn make it difficult for them to make healthy choices regarding their own sexual conduct in relationships.

    It’s what makes me worry when I hear stories like the one posted here a few weeks ago, of babies triumphantly rescued from the jaws of abortion by the last-minute prayers or donations of well-meaning people. SO much more is needed, by way of intensive counselling, mental health treatment, and ongoing mentorship for the mothers, to ensure that these children one saves do not themselves end up pregnant, unwed, desperate and contemplating abortion at some point in the not-too-distant future. As part of its pro-life efforts, I think we need to do more to support adoption, but even more to support healthy families and good parenting.

  14. benedetta says:

    Malateste: There are a few pro-life networks that provide for those things you suggest but there absolutely should be more. It seems unfortunately that even those who choose to stand by the mothers and walk with them are no attacked as somehow infringing upon everyone else’s rights so we need to find places that do this and support them as much as we can. I don’t know how it is in the U.K. but in the U.S. at least the way it often works is that if you are hooked up as willing to lend support however needed word goes out from time to time as to specifics, which can range from diapers, groceries, a ride to a doctor’s appointment, to a place to live to job openings to counseling, mentoring and moral support to the mom, to the entire range of help one might need especially when the father or extended family have absented themselves of responsibility for whatever reasons. But the places that go the extra mile to support are often denigrated themselves so it is important that when the political debate comes up to point out that these places are engaged in acts of practical Christian charity on par with any outreach effort to the poor and needy and should not be dismissed merely because the child in need has been in a sense saved from a death others pressure the mom to carry out and which is still legalized.

  15. frscott says:

    Thanks for posting this. I watched the episode on MTV, along with the “extended interview” that is also offered on the website. Watching both shows you just how much the producers manipulated the interview of the three girls at the end to fit their agenda. If you watch the entire interview you can see that the girls knew they have children inside of them. Unfortunately our society has brainwashed them into thinking that since they hadn’t had time to “bond” with the “baby”/”child”, they were justified in their “parenting decision.” Yes, that’s right. One of the girls actually called it a “parenting decision” since she wasn’t “denying the ri… the chi… the fact that you are a parent.” So apparently, according to her words, it was best for the “child” in her womb to be “terminated”.

    Hopefully more are picking up on all of this and MTV’s motives have backfired on them. I believe we can actually use this to our advantage to show kids and adults the horrors that are alive in the abortion industry.

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