The abortion scene in 'Scandal' was one of its best — but it almost didn't happen

The abortion scene in 'Scandal' was one of its best — but it almost didn't happen
Source: AP
Source: AP

Though in 2014 about 19% of pregnancies ended in abortion, up until recently, you'd be hard-pressed to see a character go through with one on TV. 

So when Scandal aired a season five episode featuring protagonist Olivia Pope undergoing the procedure, it was nothing short of powerful. But in a new Hollywood Reporter interview in honor of the show's 100th episode, creator Shonda Rimes revealed ABC tried to stop the memorable scene from making it to the final cut. 

The only reason it did was Rhimes' own staunch insistence. 

"I said, 'Go ahead, alter the scene,'" she said. "'We'll just have a lot of articles about how you altered the scene.'"

Rimes said Scandal had featured an abortion storyline before, involving a military woman terminating a pregnancy that resulted from a rape. She said the way they dealt with Olivia's abortion wasn't different at all, except that it was happening to their main character. Oh — and "Silent Night" was playing during Olivia's scene.

Bellamy Young, who plays Mellie Grant, the show's first lady, said it took guts to pick the song.

"I don't think abortion had ever been presented as an emancipated woman's option before," she said in the Hollywood Reporter article.

Shonda Rhimes with Tony Goldwyn, who plays the president in 'Scandal,' at the 2016 Emmy Awards.
Source: 
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Rhimes has tried before to feature abortion plot lines on her other shows. 

She told Time in 2014 that she tried to write in an abortion for Grey's Anatomy character Cristina Yang in the show's first season, but she was hesitant to pursue it because ABC "freaked out a little bit." 

"No one told me I couldn't do it, but they could not point to an instance in which anyone had," Rhimes said. "And I sort of panicked a little bit in that moment and thought maybe this isn't the right time for the character, we barely know her... I didn't want it to become like what the show was about."

Olivia Pope's abortion, then, could be considered a sign of some progress — but there's still far to go.

"It's a polarizing issue obviously," Rhimes told Time. "Because it is such a hot-button issue, because people are debating it, it should be discussed. And I'm not sure why it's not being discussed."

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Marie Solis

Marie is a staff writer with a focus in feminist issues. Her writing has appeared in Gothamist and the Awl. You can reach her at marie@mic.com.

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