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.”
Margaret never got to meet Becky before the procedure. When she showed up at Becky’s door days later, she told the teen, “I just really wanted to come over and meet you, you know, extend a hand, tell you that I’m really sorry about what you’ve had to go through and to tell you that I wish I could have been there for you, to help you.” Then all that understanding and kindness Margaret had been extending to Luke and Becky turned ugly when she scapegoated another mother, Tami Taylor, for the situation.
Becky had confided in Tami, the principal of a neighboring high school, before she even talked to her own mother. And Tami – a married, church-going mother of two including a teenage girl and a toddler – was Switzerland. She offered Becky a list of options, saying that there was free medical care for pregnant teens and an adoption agency in town. But Becky interrupted her and asked, “What if I don’t want to have the baby?” The former guidance counselor said matter-of-factly, “I can direct you to literature.”
Despite appearing unflappable in front of Becky, Tami was so upset that she found herself up at 3 a.m., holding her babbling toddler Grace in her lap in the darkness while Tami sat in a rocking chair. She roused her husband Eric to ask what they’d do if their daughter Julie had been the one who was pregnant. “. . . I mean, would she talk to us?” she whispered. “What would she do?”
Tami, who’d taken no position on what Becky should do, then became the victim of the misdirected rage of Margaret Cafferty who first tried to persuade members of the school board to have Tami fired -- alleging that Tami told Becky to have an abortion – and, when that didn’t work, went to the newspaper with the same fallacious allegation. “A woman who would do something like that should not be in charge of children,” Margaret told her son Luke who was pleading with her to stop, telling her she was taking out her anger at the wrong person. “. . . That was my grandchild,” she said despairingly.
All the mothers -- regardless of how kindly or unkindly, rationally or irrationally they had behaved over the past few episodes -- wanted what they believed was best for their child, to protect, love and guide them into making the right choices. But the sad truth, at least on Friday Night Lights, was that the only thing these women discovered that they could really do for their teens was to offer them guidance and love. As for everything else, as much as it pained the mothers to think about it, the rest was really up to the teens.