Warning: Spoilers ahead for GLOW season 1. Come back after you've finished episode 8, "Maybe It’s All The Disco."
When an abortion actually occurs on television, it's usually because the pregnant character is given as little time as possible to think or talk about the procedure. Take Jane The Virgin’s Xiomara (Andrea Navedo) for example. When the mum-of-one found out she was pregnant with a fling’s baby, she got her abortion off-screen, and we found out she made the decision after the abortion even happened. When Olivia Pope terminated her pregnancy with the President Of The United States in Scandal season 5, we see her in a waiting room alone. A few scenes later, we see Liv in the middle of the procedure. There’s absolutely no talking about it — there’s barely even any sound. That is not how Netflix's new wrestling comedy Glow deals with its abortion episode, and I absolutely love the streaming series for that.
It starts to dawn on viewers that lead character Ruth (Alison Brie) is pregnant during episode 8, "Maybe It’s All The Disco," when the rest of the Glow women confirm their menstrual cycles have synced up after spending so much time together. As the gorgeous ladies of wrestling debate the advantages of tampons versus pads, Ruth realises she needs neither product and immediately goes to buy a very '80s pregnancy test. Although using the test is the most involved process in the world, Ruth eventually finds out she in fact pregnant. To make matter worse, the father of the wrestler-in-training’s growing foetus is her best friend Debbie’s husband, Mark (Rich Sommer). This is not an ideal pregnancy situation for Ruth, especially as her career is starting to take off and it now requires some pretty intense, non-pregnancy-friendly stunts.
So, Ruth does what she needs to do and heads to the women’s health clinic. She brings along her Glow show-within-a-show director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) of "womb goof" fame for moral support. Their drive hints Ruth is serious about her choice as she shares a cigarette with Sam while he prattles on about his breakup with Glow wrestler Rhonda (Kate Nash). At least Sam isn’t as wildly uncomfortable about this reproductive news as he is about miscarriages. He even manages to make Ruth laugh amid this tense situation, doing an entire bit for the clinic secretary where he claims to be her husband. "I could’ve pulled out, but I got lazy," he says as Ruth tries to hide a smile. "Lucky for us, we hate children. Right, honey?"
When the not actually married duo sits down, Sam says, "I feel like I’m supposed to ask you if this is what you want." He doesn’t actually even want to ask the question, but brings it up just in case Ruth needs to hear it. The young woman quietly answers, "Yeah. It’s not the right time. Not the right baby." Sam doesn’t offer up any judgment because he doesn’t have any. He respects Ruth’s choice and even offers to stay in the waiting room until she’s done so the young woman can pick out her own post-abortion pink frosted donuts. It’s a small, but meaningful, gesture.
Considering the fact pop culture is filled with people trying to talk women out of having abortions, I was terrified all of this time dedicated to Ruth’s procedure would end in her changing her mind. My heart raced as she sat in the stirrups and her doctor asked as a (likely legal) formality, “You have considered all your options? And you’re comfortable with the decision to end your pregnancy?” Yes, she has and she is, please don’t let all of America’s anti-choice moralising change her mind at the last minute. But, Ruth confidently still says yes to both questions and goes through with her procedure. No sexist school of thought changes her mind. It’s such a great example of how abortions are medical procedures women need, not nefarious murders of unborn babies. From a show produced by Orange Is The New Black creator Jenji Kohan, I would expect nothing less nuanced.
Although Ruth is experiencing the end of something, in this case a pregnancy, “All The Disco” still wraps on an optimistic note. The abortion clinic painted one ceiling tile with a pretty cloudy sky to give patients something to focus on during the procedure. That's the kind of kindness all women deserve in that moment.
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