Thursday night’s episode of Shonda Rhimes’s ABC series Scandal was an hour-long advertisement for Planned Parenthood — so much so that the organization released a statement praising Rhimes and the episode immediately after it aired.
In the fifth-season episode, titled “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” main character Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), wife of the Republican U.S. President, undergoes an abortion while the Christmas hymn “Silent Night” plays in the background. Concurrently, Republican Senator Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) successfully filibusters a bill that would defund Planned Parenthood, allowing it to keep its funding.
The episode was so overtly pro-Planned Parenthood that the organization issued a statement immediately after it aired to praise Rhimes and the show “for proving that when women are telling our stories, the world will pause and watch”:
Tonight, the millions of people who tune into Scandal every Thursday night learned that our rights to reproductive health care are under attack. Never one to shy away from critical issues, Shonda Rhimes used her platform to tell the world that if Planned Parenthood lost funding for contraception counseling, STI testing, cancer screenings, and safe, legal abortion — millions of people would suffer. And this episode wasn’t the first time one of Rhimes’ characters had an abortion, yet tonight we saw one of our favorite characters make the deeply personal decision that one in three women have made in their lifetime. We applaud Shonda Rhimes tonight — and every Thursday night – for proving that when women are telling our stories, the world will pause and watch. We just hope those in Congress — and throughout the nation — who are steadfast on rolling the clock back on reproductive health care access are taking note.
After getting the abortion, Olivia returns to the White House, where she sips on some red wine while the classical piece “Ave Maria” plays in the background.
In its own statement, Media Research Center blasted the episode:
Hollywood’s liberal values permeate movies and television. Last night’s episode of ABC’s Scandal was pretty much an hour-long advertisement for Planned Parenthood. In the most disturbing scene, the main character has an abortion to ‘Silent Night’ (a hymn celebrating the birth of Jesus) playing in the background. This is Hollywood’s moral depravity on full display.
In an interview with Time last year, Rhimes said that televisions shows should tackle abortion because it is a “polarizing issue:” “Because it is such a hot button issue, because people are debating it, it should be discussed. And I’m not sure why it’s not being discussed.”
Rhimes serves on the board of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, according to Time. Earlier episodes of Scandal have included abortion-related storylines, and several characters in another one of her hit shows, Grey’s Anatomy, have revealed they have had abortions.
Actress Kerry Washington tweeted her support of Planned Parenthood last night, using the hashtags #IStandWithPlannedParenthood and #IStandWithMellie, in reference to Bellamy Young’s character who was filibustering in the Senate against defunding Planned Parenthood.
— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) November 20, 2015