Television Shows That Understand Birth Control Better Than The Supreme Court

If only we could vote for Leslie Knope IRL. CREDIT: DEAN HENDLER/NBC/AP
If only we could vote for Leslie Knope IRL. CREDIT: DEAN HENDLER/NBC/AP

Did you spend your weekend making bad decisions? Well SCOTUS just picked up right where you left off with a terrifically bad decision: the Hobby Lobby decision.

Here’s an idea: maybe the way to better Supreme Court decisions is through a hostile takeover of Justice Alito’s DVR.

Arguably the worst thing about this decision is that it hinges on the belief that birth control is somehow unimportant, or “less than” medicine. In the decision, Justice Alito clarifies that the ruling only applies to “contraceptive mandates,” not things like “vaccinations and blood transfusions.” (No word yet on “blood transfusions for sluts.”) The Hobby Lobby decision is also contingent upon a complete misunderstanding of how science works, which is great because I definitely love to know that we have justices on the Supreme Court who do not comprehend basic biology.

Meanwhile, television has gifted us some, dare I say, heroes of contraception, warriors on the front lines of protecting our rights from people who apparently do not care at all for the well-being of 99% of women, or the 100% of humanity that benefits when women are not stripped of our rights to control our bodies, our health, and when or whether we get pregnant. And maybe if that “5” in the “5 to 4” ruling saw the narratives behind the numbers, they’d have a better grasp (which is to say, a grasp, period) on why access to contraception is so vital to so many people.

Here, the seven shows SCOTUS should start watching ASAP:

Friday Night LightsCorrina Williams was a nurse at Planned Parenthood (classic Mrs. Smash shade, thrown at Tyra: “I work at Planned Parenthood. You probably haven’t seen the last of me.”) Tami Taylor, whose hair is literally woven from the same golden threads as a unicorn’s mane, does such a good job having The Talk with Julie that someday when I have kids I’ll probably just push play on this: via The A.V. Club

Planned Parenthood is also where Tami Taylor goes to get a pregnancy test and where Becky Sproles goes to have a (safe and legal!) abortion, after being counseled by Tami Taylor on what her options are — a counseling session that came at great professional risk for Tami and ultimately cost her her job as principal. Connie Britton is a champion of contraception and women’s rights in real life, too; along with FNL executive producer Sarah Aubrey, she wrote a scathing op-ed about Mitt Romney’s attempt to co-opt the FNL rallying cry, “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.” His values were way out of whack with the values of the women of Dillon, she wrote: “the women we represented on the show — the women we are in real life — are like the millions of women across the nation. Women who want to make our own health care decisions. Women who want to earn equal pay for the work we do. Women who want affordable health care.” Britton completed her hat trick of women’s health advocacy by playing a sex-positive mom in The To-Do List.

The Mindy ProjectDr. Lahiri, just your classic OB-GYN who swings by the local high school to pass out condoms to female students. Does she get sent to the principal’s office for handing out “sexual paraphernalia” to students? Yes, but in this and almost always, I am team Mindy here; obviously better for the students’ “sexual paraphernalia” to be condoms and not, like, herpes. Mindy also prescribes her young patients birth control — no judgment, no bullshit — and tells one college-age girl that, “You and I, as young women, freshly out of adolescence, we cannot let the guys in our lives control our lives.” (The patient is all, “I heard that birth control makes you fat and cranky,” and Mindy’s realtalk reply is, “So does pregnancy.”)

16 and PregnantA 2014 study using data from Google Trends, Twitter, Nielsen ratings and Vital Statistic birth data found that 16 and Pregnant led to a 5.7% reduction in teen births — a percentage that accounts for one-third of the total decline in teen births: 20,000 fewer teen births a year. Professor Phillip Levine, one of two researchers behind the study, said “What we were able to find was a very large number of tweets that literally said ’16 and Pregnant is the best form of birth control.’ Thousands of tweets say that, or some variant of that. ‘Just watched 16 and Pregnant, remembered to go take my birth control.” Nice work, MTV! Or really, nice work teenagers watching MTV.

Parks and RecreationFollowing an outbreak of crabs among the very sexually active senior community in Pawnee, Leslie leads a panel on safe sex. In a turn of events that in no way resembles anything that could happen in real life, a couple of very intense, conservative Pawneeans insist that the law of the land forbids all sex education. Start putting condoms on bananas and, before you know it, “you will have babies in thong underwear.” Leslie fights the good fight, continuing to push for free condoms for all of Pawnee and get sex education on the books. “States that teach abstinence-only have the highest rates of teen pregnancy and STDs. To continue this policy is insane.”

Mad MenLong before, in the technical parlance of prestige television, shit got weird, Mad Men was a show about advertising. Peggy was a bright young whippersnapper and Joan was queen of the secretary pool. In the series premiere, Joan sent Peggy to her gynecologist to get Enovoid, a pill intended to treat “severe menstrual disorders” that, as women in the know understood, also worked as birth control. A few minus points for this experience just because the doctor was a slut-shame-y dick about it.

Modern FamilyWhen Haley goes off to college, Claire sends her with a box of condoms. According to co-showrunner Steve Levitan, a bunch of the writers without college-aged kids “weren’t initially in favor of the scene,” and even Levitan “wasn’t comfortable” with it. But the contraception stayed in the picture: “The name of our show is Modern Family. We shouldn’t shy away from things like that; we should explore them.”

Grey’s AnatomyIf the only place you got any information about pregnancy and the termination thereof were television, you would probably think that 50% of unexpected pregnancies end in miscarriage, 50% of them end in a change of heart and a happy, totally desired baby, and 0% end with an abortion. It shouldn’t have been so surprising to see this character state, clearly and passionately, that she has no interest in bearing children, nor should it have been so surprising to see her follow through on the abortion she was entirely confident in wanting. She’s never wanted kids. The day of her abortion, she still does not want kids. So she gets an abortion. Her husband goes with her.

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