By Amber J. Phillips
This blog is reposted with permission from Strong Families partner organization Advocates for Youth on whose blog it originally appeared.
On Mondays, after spending my day working for and with young college sexual health and reproductive rights activists as the Manager of Campus Organizing at Advocates for Youth, I come home to cook dinner and text my sisters as we prepare for yet another drama filled episode of Love & Hip Hop Atlanta. Yes, I enjoy my fair share of terrible yet entertaining reality TV shows like most millennials and LHHATL happens to be one of the train wrecks that I can’t turn away from.
Let me start by saying I’m well aware that there is much to be said about LHHATL’s fictitious and at times demeaning portrayal of Black life. The women are constantly fighting each other and the men seem to have little to no respect for the women they claim to love. (Oh Stevie J. how I loathe you and your silly grin!)
However, much of the turmoil that exists on the show is clearly created to move the plot and keep the show’s millions of viewers watching and tweeting. My baby sister and I agree that the show can hardly be considered “reality” or an accurate depiction of all Hip Hop artists, Black people, and our love lives. However, my interest was further sparked in the show when one of the main cast members, Rasheeda, told her husband she was pregnant with their second child. When the words hesitantly came out of her mouth, her husband of 13 years reacted with the same hesitation in acceptance of the news.
To give you a brief rundown, Rasheeda is a business owner and an Atlanta based Hip Hop artist who is signed to her husband’s label and management company. Though Rasheeda is excited about her pregnancy she’s not happy with her husband Kirk’s reaction to the news. Kirk voices his concerns about the bad timing of the pregnancy considering Rasheeda’s demanding schedule of upcoming performances, previous turmoil within their relationship, and the responsibility of caring for their pre-teen son. During the course of their discussion Kirk suggested that Rasheeda consider an abortion.
Did someone on television say the word abortion? In one of the segments of the show Kirk even refers to the common procedure as “the A-B word” while talking with one of his friends about the situation.
Though I believe the decision to carry her pregnancy to term should ultimately be determined by Rasheeda (which she has clearly decided to do considering all of her recent baby bump pictures she’s posted to Instagram), everyday intimate partners around the world make family planning decisions together. While many people watching, like my sisters, were taken aback by the idea of a married couple possibly deciding to terminate an unplanned pregnancy, these types of conversations are not that uncommon.
At Advocates for Youth, I work with our program called the 1 in 3 Campaign. Did you know that 1 in 3 women in the United States will have an abortion in her lifetime? The 1 in 3 campaign is about ending the cultural stigma and shame women are made to feel around abortion through storytelling. By sharing stories, we empower others to end their silence about their experience as well as take away some of the very negative views we have about abortion and the women who choose to access them. After that episode of LLHATL aired, I was able to have a very interesting conversation with my 19 year old baby sister.
I found out that my youngest sister barely knew what an abortion even consisted of, yet she had strong feelings against them. My sisters and I were raised in a loving and Baptist Christian family in Columbus, Ohio. Though I personally know more than one person I have shared a Sunday school class with who has accessed abortion care, it was not something we talked about outside of it being totally wrong. Until my sophomore year of college I had never even heard the words “reproductive justice.” Therefore I was not surprised when my baby sister said, “The only thing I know about abortions was through Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls!” The abortion in this movie was a “back-alley” illegal abortion because the young girl did not have enough money to pay for a safe and legal abortion procedure.
Thankfully at the end of our conversation, I directed her to 1in3campaign.org to read the countless stories of women who have accessed abortion care, and gave her some interesting statics about abortion, after which my baby sister said words that made me smile: “I have never actually thought about this. I feel like I should look up more information now.”
Since our research on storytelling around abortion access played out to be completely true right in front of my eyes with my sister, I figure I can try to do it again! Every Monday, a brand spanking new episode of Love and Hip Hop Atlanta! Since I have the coolest job in the world, I will be live tweeting with you at 8pm EST so make sure you are following @AmplifyTweets and tune in to see how the abortion conversation between Rasheeda and Kirk will continue to play out on the show! This should be fun, yes?!
Amber J. Phillips is a contributor to the Strong Families project Echoing Ida. She is the Manager of Campus Organizing at Advocates for Youth where she is living her dream of working with and for progressive young people to make transformative changes in our society.