Friday Night Lights: Pregnancy, Abortion, and Responsibility.

by Meredith O'Brien



It’s been a compelling, controversial storyline nominally about abortion but more, I think, about mothers: Mothers of teens, a woman who was a teen mom and a teen who was almost a mother.


Friday Night Lights has garnered a lot of publicity in the last few weeks over its storyline involving Becky Sproles, a 15-year-old girl who got pregnant during a one-night-stand. Becky wavered on what to do about her situation and wound up consulting the principal of a nearby high school and, ultimately agreed with her mother’s strong recommendation that she have an abortion.


As the fall-out from Becky’s abortion continues in a new episode this coming Friday, I’ve been more interested in how the various maternal characters have made their way through this emotionally difficult thicket.


Take Cheryl, Becky’s mother. She had Becky when she was a teen and regretted it, blamed her constant struggle for money and her dead-end job, where she tends bar at all hours of the night, on the fact that she had a child when she was a child. Cheryl wanted something different for her daughter – whom she largely ignores, leaving the girl painfully lonely – and, when she learned that Becky had become pregnant, was petrified of history repeating itself. Regardless of what Becky said, as far as Cheryl was concerned, there would be no decision made other than to have an abortion, very much the position taken by Dr. Naomi Bennett on Private Practice when her 15-year-old daughter got pregnant, but Naomi was outvoted by her daughter Maya (who’s much more confident than Becky) and her ex-husband Sam. “She’s not having a baby; she’s having an abortion,” Cheryl angrily told the doctor when Becky still wasn’t sure if that was the right choice for her.


But Becky, who fleetingly entertained the notion of trying to raise the child, had grown up living with the knowledge that single parenthood in a cash-strapped home is an extremely difficult road. “We don’t have any money and I’m in the tenth grade,” she said. “And it was my first time, and I threw it away and I don’t want to throw my life away. It’s just really obvious that my mom wants me to have this abortion because I was her mistake and she has just struggled and hurt every day and she wanted better.”


On the opposite side was the helplessness experienced by the mother of the teenager who got Becky pregnant, Luke Cafferty’s mother Margaret, who was, unfortunately portrayed rather one-dimensionally, as a vengeful person. When Margaret -- who is married and regularly attends church with her husband and Luke -- first learned that her son had gotten a girl pregnant, she initially offered him support, told him everything would be okay. “Mary and Joseph thought they were in a situation too, at first,” she said, to which Luke replied that he and Becky weren’t Mary and Joseph. “Well, we need to meet this Becky and then we’ll figure out what to do.”