Prime Time Abortion

27 Sep

A guest post from  Jane Cawthorne.

Cristina Yang had an abortion. In Prime Time. Yes, it’s true.

The Grey’s Anatomy character, super whiz-kid, tough-as-nails with a hidden heart-of-gold cardiac surgeon-in-training, got pregnant, and told her husband, Owen, she wanted an abortion. They had a big fight. Owen wanted to have a baby (or more correctly, wanted Cristina to have a baby), got all “lifey” on her (Cristina’s word) and threw her out. Then Cristina stayed over at Meredith’s house and helped Meredith with her new baby, the one she was adopting from Malawi with McDreamy, demonstrating that she, indeed, could (if she wanted to) look after a baby and even smile at it and kiss it on the cheek, all the while affirming her desire to have an abortion. Cristina convinces Meredith that she really really really doesn’t want to have a baby and that she wants to concentrate on being a surgeon. She says she needs Meredith to be supportive because Meredith is her “person” which is “Grey’s-speak” for bigger than best friends or kind of soul-mates without sex. Meredith in turn convinces Owen that indeed, Cristina does not want a baby and says he should not pressure her. She boosts Cristina’s case by adding that she, Meredith, knows what it’s like to be the child of a woman who didn’t want you. And anyway, Owen knew who Cristina was when they married, and shouldn’t expect her to change her stripes or something like that.

In the end, Owen goes with her to the appointment and Cristina actually has the abortion, but not before the doctor performing the procedure says very sternly, “I’m going to ask you one more time, are you absolutely sure this is what you want to do?” It is. She does. Surprisingly, the writers didn’t get out of the story line by making her have a miscarriage, a change of heart or an ectopic pregnancy like she did in an earlier season. Let the chips fall where they may. There has been a Prime Time abortion.


What will happen to Cristina now? This is the most interesting question in TV, as far as I’m concerned. Will she just move on with her life guilt free, possibly expressing feelings of relief as most women do who have abortions? Or, will she be made to suffer? Well, it is Grey’s Anatomy, so we can assume there will be some suffering, but will the cause of it be the abortion?

This is what should happen. Cristina goes on to have the life she is planning and has worked so hard to get. She feels relief. She finishes all of her training and becomes a world renowned cardiac surgeon, unencumbered by offspring she did not want. She has a good marriage with Owen, with no more than the normal ups and downs that any relationship faces. She is a fun Aunt to Meredith’s new baby, assuming social services does not take that baby away, which is currently a possibility.

In a future episode, Cristina considers what birth control is best for her. Meredith and Cristina have a long discussion about the relative merits of everything from birth control pills to IUDs. Cristina, never one to do anything in half measures, decides to have a tubal ligation. Meredith is aghast and says, “Seriously?” She tries to talk her out of it, saying there are effective non-surgical options to control fertility. But Cristina says, “Mer, I’m some kind of pregnancy magnet. Please, respect my decision.” Then Owen dramatically intervenes just as the nurses are prepping her for surgery and announces that, out of love for his wife and his new understanding that she will never want children, he will have a vasectomy. America is informed about this safe and viable option. Owen gets snipped and goes back to work the next day.

A further series of episodes involves Cristina and Owen creating an abortion clinic when they realize a lot of women have trouble accessing services.

Episodes that we should not see include Cristina being plagued by guilt, Owen resenting her, Cristina second guessing her decision the next time she sees a chubby-cheeked newborn, Cristina getting hit by a car, Cristina losing her job or suffering in some way that might be construed as punishment, Cristina being left behind in the Rapture. She lives, as much as anyone can on Grey’s Anatomy, happily ever after.


6 Responses to “Prime Time Abortion”

  1. Christie September 27, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    I love this post. My only question to the author would be, why should Cristina, after carefully weighing her options, not choose a tubal ligation even if Owen decides to have a vasectomy?

  2. Odile September 27, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    hear, hear!

    as a matter of fact, Cristina shouldn’t want to take away Owen’s choice to preserve his fertility, in light of possible future events that would take her out of the picture….if no children/loss of fertility is her choice, she should have the sterilization procedure

  3. Alicia September 27, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    I think the reason Owen would (and should) be encouraged to get a vasectomy versus Christina getting her tubes tied is that the former is less invasive, less dangerous, and more easily reversed (yes, I realize not by much).

  4. Nonny September 29, 2011 at 1:17 am #

    Ehhh… I wouldn’t want to see Owen be the one getting it done. Their relationship has been rocky enough. There is no guarantee that they’re going to make it. Plus, it’s her reproductive choice. While I would love to see him offer — if they did this at all — I’d prefer to see her, in the end, be the one who gets it done.

  5. Brenda McFarlane September 30, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    You make a great point about how abortion is usually played out in Hollywood. As a person who once tried my hand at writing for television, I understand how pregnancy can really help a story line and an abortion sort of ends a story line, which as a writer would tend to avoid.

    A woman, or man, managing to find and follow their heart is an internal drama, hard to portray on TV while “choosing” (if the character is actually portrayed as a mature adult with the ability to choose and not simply swept away by emotional, hormonal or social influences)to have a baby is much easier to show. Buying cribs and clothes and having an actual baby provide visual story and easy to tell. Obviously, internal dramas, like finding one’s own valuable and purpose in the world, aren’t as easy to portray.

    Perhaps there is more to this too… I often think that women who are or have been mothers have contributed more to society than I have, are intrinsically better people, must be more fulfilled. I look at my life and see a failed playwright and screenwriter. I look at my friends who have had children and think they have accomplished something, no matter what else they do with their lives. Certainly not something I can tell myself when weighing my own contributions to society. No doubt as a storyteller this bias against my own value as a childless (by choice) woman would come out in my writing. Good to consider the implications. Thank you Jane Cawthorne for giving me the opportunity to consider this!


  1. “Thrilled” about the Abortion on Grey’s Anatomy « Pro-Life Hotline - September 29, 2011

    […] airing.  One other was Jane Cawthorne of The Abortion Monologues, who had a guest post at Abortion Gang in which she speculated about what she considers “the most interesting question in TV” […]

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