Category: 7.03



“How about giving a little thanks to the women like me who built the ladder that you use to get up to your soapbox?”

I guess I have some issues with the way that the abortion is being discussed right now. Deciding to not have a kid because you don’t have the support of a partner is still a choice, and it’s in fact a big part of why many people decide to have an abortion. That’s real, and it doesn’t equal manipulation. Amy looked at the reality of what she was facing and Dan’s behavior and decided. (And she doesn’t need insight from Sophie—she’s made enough cracks about Sophie being a single mom. She gets it.)

Anon, I think it’s useful here to clarify that my complaint really isn’t with Amy having an abortion in and of itself. There are many, many reasons women make that choice and it’s not for me – or anyone else – to pass judgment on their decisions. Choosing not to have a child if you can’t do it without the support of a partner seems pretty damn reasonable to me.

But it’s important that I’m clear on this – my questioning the choices Veep’s writers made in structuring Amy’s arc is not the same thing, at all, as questioning whether Amy’s reasoning is “good enough.”

And one of the biggest problems is that Amy’s moment of decision happens over about forty-five seconds, from beginning to end, and even with a fine actress in the part, it just isn’t enough to convey that Amy has come to the decision entirely independently of Dan and Selina’s ongoing emotional abuse.

The writers had choices here – they didn’t have to make every single character Amy spoke to about her pregnancy relentlessly awful to her. I think it would sit a lot better if the show hadn’t gone out of its way to confirm that absolutely no one in Amy’s life was going to give her any support. Take away Selina and Gary being so horrible to her – with Selina docking Amy’s pay and threatening her future emoployment – take away Sophie using the opportunity of the abortion to sleep with Dan again, and have her be at least mildly supportive – have Dan say “do what you want and I’ll pay my due, but just that and no more” – have someone, anyone, behave like a reasonable human being (a woman of Amy’s age considering having a child should come as a surprise to precisely no one) and suddenly it’s much, much easier to believe that Amy’s choice was her own.

How the writers choose to frame things matters. They can say whatever they choose about what they intended, but… when you have all the other characters back Amy into a corner (metaphorically speaking) and the only way she gets out it is by doing what they want, I think it’s fair to question how free the choice was. Because believe you me, I wouldn’t be half or even a quarter so pissed off if I thought it was something she really wanted (except about the Meaghan thing, because come on).

If Veep had written an abortion storyline that really demonstrated how and why access to abortion gives women greater control over their own lives and thus more safety and security (by, for instance, giving them the tools to escape shitheads like Dan), I would throw them a parade. Those are stories people need to hear, over and over again.

Now, I don’t think they did – but opinions may very well differ on that point.

what are your thoughts on the writers and the cast saying that the abortion arc was fully amy's choice?

If that was what they intended to convey, they really, really failed.

On the most basic level, if you want us to believe it is a choice Amy makes freely, don’t place the moment of decision right after Dan tells her he’s going to have sex with a teenage girl with the same name that she wants to give their daughter.  There is no way for the audience to read those things as disconnected.  Especially as there is all of seven seconds between Dan closing the door and Amy making the phone call – we don’t really see Amy’s thought process.

In the whole arc, there isn’t a single scene where Amy gets to express what she wants and why – every time she opens her mouth about the pregnancy she gets shut down by the people she’s speaking to, mocked, and then pressured about an abortion.  It is just as much an abuse of reproductive autonomy to force a woman to have an abortion as to prevent her from having one.  

And what kills me about this… if this is the outcome they wanted, there are definitely ways to get Amy there that don’t feel so unpleasant.  Have the Jonah job offer come in the second episode, so it’s partly guiding her thought process.  Have Selina – who would know – react to the pregnancy by pointing out to Amy (as forcefully as necessary) just how much damage a lifelong link to a handsome dirtbag could do (and that’s not even getting into Selina’s feelings about Catherine) to her career aspirations. (Not to mention Selina’s likely feelings about a pregnancy on the campaign, which I doubt were positive).  Have Sophie really bring home to her what the realities of being a single mother are – because it is a hard and lonely path to walk. Have Dan sit her down and tell her straight that she can do whatever she wants, but he is not going to be an involved father or ever interested in any kind of ongoing relationship with her.

To be clear, none of these possibilities require that any of the characters involved be nice about the pregnancy – it’s Veep, moments of kindness are few and far between – just that they have some inkling that Amy’s choice is primarily one about her.  

Or if they couldn’t have that, have Amy react in a realistic fashion, and get angry with at least one of the people who is demanding she make major decisions about her life and her body for their convenience.  Because, yes, the scene where she unloads on the protesters was fantastic, and Anna Chlumsky hit it out of the park (her performance has been exceptional throughout – to the point where it’s obscuring some serious failures in the writing), but writing the scene in that way means that Dan and Selina are never called to account for the way they’re treating her, and the audience is…insulated from the reality of what the show has depicted.  Because the protesters are obnoxious and espouse a hateful ideology, but they aren’t the ones who attempted to exert control over Amy’s reproductive choices and were successful.  Dan is.

And to add insult to injury, the show has her thank him for taking care of her after the abortion – when it’s very, very hard to avoid the suspicion that his caretaking is just another form of emotional abuse.  He’s sweet to Amy when she does what he wants, but when she doesn’t…well he will act out in the ways he knows are guaranteed to hurt her the most.

Which I could live with, if the show acknowledged that that’s what they’ve depicted (though with its heightened atmosphere, I’m not sure Veep is the best show to tackle abuse in romantic relationships)…but it’s still trying to maintain the audience’s hope that maybe the two of them will get it together somehow, so there’s this weird pretence that they’re still friends, and he’s still someone Amy would confide in.  

Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining – don’t try to sugar over coercive and abusive treatment of a young woman by saying she “chose” it and therefore the other characters are retrospectively absolved.

Dan coercing an abortion – whether through emotional or financial or some other form of pressure (I don’t think he would ever physically abuse Amy, but that’s cold comfort at this point) – was always my red line, and the show attempting to sugar-coat it, isn’t going to change that. (Though I do find it noteworthy that, as awful as he has been throughout the show, they still had to bend his character in half to get him to the point of doing it).