How P-Valley’s timely abortion episode echoes the harsh reality of black women


P-Valley creator Katori Hall couldn’t have known how timely the Season 2 episode “Jackson” would be when it was scheduled.

The episode follows Mercedes (Brandee Evans) and her daughter Terricka (A’zaria Carter) as the teenager struggles to decide what to do in the event of an unplanned pregnancy. As the teenager tries to deal with all her feelings about having a body, P-Valley explores the harsh reality of what black women experience and the complicated feelings about abortion.

“Women’s reproductive rights in Mississippi is something we wanted to cover in season one because [Mississippi] has one of the most restrictive abortion laws,” Hall says, “We felt it was imperative for us to find a storyline that could address this issue because we use fiction to tell the truth. . The result is a powerful hour about what black teenage girls face in a time when someone like Terricka would have even fewer options.

“We obviously had no idea that the Mississippi today we were writing would become yesterday because you can no longer have an abortion in the state,” Hall shares, noting that the exceptions are when a pregnancy is caused by rape or to save the life of the mother.

P-Valley Season 2

Kimberly Simms/Starz

During “Jackson,” Mercedes says, “pregnancy is life or death for us,” which speaks to the original intent of the episode. “It’s a sad reality that we black women face on a daily basis going to our OBGYN or our [primary care physician]”, says Evans. It’s what she faced when she had to deal with the preventable stillbirth of her daughter and as a caregiver for her mother, which left her fighting for treatment. and equitable care.”Nobody goes the extra mile to make sure we’re really well,” she adds.

In addition to Mercedes’ line, there’s an exchange in the episode where Terricka says she believes abortions cause cancer, which incorporates another part of the problem: misinformation. “[It] is endemic in our society, our communities and in our families,” according to Hall. Regarding Terricka’s words, the show’s creator says you can learn how state mandates for providers played a role in misinformation about abortion in the documentary. jackson. “The fact that the South is a socially and religiously conservative part of America is part of the reason there’s so much turning away from these issues, especially among young women,” Hall says. This means young people have to make decisions without all the information, and children don’t have difficult but necessary conversations at home.

One of the heaviest scenes shows Mercedes and Terricka entering Jackson’s clinic for an appointment. At the time, Terricka hadn’t decided what she wanted to do, but there were protesters ready to shame the young teenager for simply walking inside. “They told us we would have people outside the clinic, and my face was real when Mercedes got out of the car. I remember thinking about what it must be like trying to make a choice of life for yourself, and people yelling at you just terrible,” Evans recalled.

With a mix of judgment, misinformation, implied basis, lack of sex education, and other factors, Terricka’s decision about her own body is far more complicated than it needs to be. Making things more heartbreaking for Evans is how the present makes what is already a grueling episode for Terricka impossible. “That clinic was closed in Jackson, so it wouldn’t even have been a choice for her about her own body,” she explains.

P-Valley Season 2

P-Valley Season 2

Kimberly Simms/Starz

In this timely story is the result of Mercedes’ hard work to build a life for her and Terricka. Evans didn’t know her character would be a mother when she landed the role, but that was her main motivation. We see it in her attempts to leave the strip club and the room she’s always kept for Terricka in her home. “It was a great relationship with us. I’m very close to her and her parents,” Evans says of her bond with Carter, “I’m very honored to have this relationship with her, so even when it’s It’s about that scenario, we talked very candidly about things that happened in both of our lives.”

Mercedes loves Terricka, but her mother Patrice Woodbine (Harriett D. Foy), forced Mercedes to have Terricka. For the entire hour, Mercedes fights her instincts to give her daughter the autonomy she’s never been given. “For Mercedes, this trip to Jackson is an opportunity to make space for this young woman to find her own decision, and that’s what Universal Combat is all about. How can we -we have a constitutional right for women, regardless of age, to make decisions for [themselves]“, explains Hall.

With the overthrow of Roe V. Wade, this episode puts what is currently happening in the context of how quickly things are changing. “It’s important for people to see how today can become yesterday very quickly,” Hall shares. His hope is that people are alert to what might be at risk in the wake of this groundbreaking Supreme Court decision. After watching, she also hopes people will have compassion for women and understand that abortion is not about right and wrong, but gives people the dignity to choose what happens to their bodies. “It doesn’t feel real to know that our rights have been completely stripped from us. It’s very clear that this country doesn’t care what women think of their bodies, and we have no choice when it comes to our bodies.” , shares Evans. .

“Mercedes gave [Terricka] the choice to have an abortion, and she chooses that, but now it’s going to be a different conversation because at this point in Mississippi, if that happens to a 14-year-old, what are you going to do? explains Evans.

P-Valley airs Sundays on Starz.

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