'Degrassi' abortion episode sparks fan outcry in U.S.

‘Degrassi’ abortion episode sparks fan outcry in U.S.
Last Updated Tue, 20 Jul 2004 11:11:04 EDT
TORONTO – An American cable channel’s decision to postpone an abortion-themed episode of the Canadian-made teen TV series Degrassi: The Next Generation is drawing the indignation of the show’s U.S. fans.

The two-part episode focuses on a teen character’s decision to have an abortion. The N Channel announced it will postpone the episode, which first aired in Canada in January on CTV.

In a 6,000-signature petition to the Viacom-owned channel, fans call the decision “unjust” and argue that they deserve to view the episodes unedited.

“By taking these actions we feel as a whole that you are dismissing a substantial part of this season’s plot,” the petition says.

The issue also prompted a Sunday New York Times article, in which the show’s creators discuss choosing relevant topics.

“If they’re talking about it in the schoolyard, we should be able to talk about it on television,” said Linda Schuyler, creator of the current Degrassi and its predecessor, the 1980s cult favourite Degrassi Junior High.

The episodes are significant for U.S. television because not only does the 14-year-old Degrassi character choose to have an abortion, she feels no guilt or regret over her decision afterwards.

The Times article compares the Canadian show to U.S. teen-centred soaps, like Beverly Hills, 90210, Dawson’s Creek and The O.C., where characters may discuss abortion, but eventually decide to continue with the pregnancy.

It’s not the first time the N Channel has put Degrassi on the shelf. In a previous season, it delayed broadcasting episodes about the drug ecstasy and about date rape until officials decided how to handle them.

The episodes eventually aired following some edits and other special treatment in the form of panel discussions, online parental guides and separately filmed introductions.

The N Channel, which targets teens between the ages of 12 and 17, touts Degrassi: The Next Generation as one of its network’s darlings, organizing preview screenings, cross-country tours for the Canadian stars and contests for walk-on appearances on the show.

In the 1980s, both the BBC and some PBS stations in the U.S. also pulled episodes dealing with teen pregnancy.

Written by CBC News Online staff

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