After months and months of hearing friends rave about Sex Education on Netflix, I finally sat down and watched the first season over the winter holidays. Folks, I was hooked. But it wasn’t witty teens navigating the awkwardness of starter sex that drew me in. It was an abortion storyline early in the show’s first season that did it.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Maeve, one of the show’s main characters, discovers that she’s pregnant and schedules an abortion at a local health clinic. (The show is set somewhere beautiful-looking in the UK, where it seems much easier to schedule an abortion than in most rural or even suburban areas in the US.) Once there, she meets an older woman who’s scheduled to have her own procedure—the latest of several, we discover later. The show steers clear of any moralizing about the women’s motives, focusing instead on the inevitable fact that untenable pregnancies happen. The storyline stays focused on them—the people having the abortions. Which, in its own way, is pretty revolutionary.
So often, popular depictions of abortion focus on everything except the person actually having it, particularly while they’re having it. It’s about familial disapproval. Angry partners. Marriage. (And, as Hillary Kelly wrote for Mother Jones last year, American TV often completely whiffs on the many insane obstacles that stand in a woman’s way in our country.)
This episode instead stays squarely inside the abortion clinic, humanizing people whose stories are often erased entirely.
What’s more, Maeve’s will they-won’t they love interest—who, again spoiler, is not who got her pregnant—bumbles about, wanting to make Maeve feel supported, and decides to bring her flowers after her procedure. He supports her without question or judgment.
The second season of Sex Education just dropped on Netflix, just in time for the 47th anniversary of Roe v Wade. It reminds us that sex—and abortion—are ultimately just about people.