Sex Education: Netflix series praised for 'accurate' depiction of abortion scenes by experts

Episode three of the comedy-drama series is being commended for its tactful depiction of abortion

Jacob Stolworthy
Wednesday 16 January 2019 13:15
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The Netflix comedy-drama series Sex Education is being praised for its depiction of abortion.

The series, which follows a group of sixth-form students and their sexual experiences, has been winning over fans since it debuted on the streaming service last Friday.

But it was the third instalment that received the biggest praise following an episode that saw the character Maeve – played by Emma Mackey – having an abortion after discovering she is pregnant.

The episode sees Maeve chatting with a nurse who counsels her on her decision as well as offering her contraceptive options.

Helen Weems, a family nurse practitioner and founder of US organisation All Families Healthcare, spoke to Teen Vogue about the scene and praised the Netflix show for depicting Maeve’s experience accurately.

“I liked that the staff was very professional, the clinic space was clean and bright, and Maeve was well cared for,” Weems said. “That truly is what independent abortion clinics are like.”

She added: “I liked that the provider discussed contraception and offered Maeve a reliable option, but wasn’t pushy — they offered information and choices but ultimately respected Maeve’s choice regarding contraception.

“Similarly, the nurse offered Maeve the option of considering adoption, but doesn’t push the subject. In other words, Maeve is getting a full range of information that she’s empowered to choose from — and not pressured into.”

Weems had just one criticism of the scene, saying that the moment in which she’s told that she needs someone to accompany her as she may need to undergo general anaesthetic could “create unnecessary anxiety”.

“The way abortion is portrayed matters. It is a simple procedure that takes only minutes, and implying that general anaesthesia is required could create unnecessary anxiety for those seeking abortion care,” she said, adding that she wishes the actual procedure had been shown.

Viewers also commended the episode on social media.

Reflecting upon filming the scenes, Mackey praised the scene for “demystifying” abortion, telling Teen Vogue: “We had a medical expert on set with us the whole time, kind of guiding us through the procedure, showing us what would be done and what wouldn’t be done, to make sure it was realistic. I think the main point with this episode is we didn’t want to sensationaliSe abortions, and we didn’t want to make it this huge, dramatic difficult decision.”

Netflix hasn’t always had a success rate when it comes to sensitive issues. Controversy hounded series 13 Reasons Why with mental health organisations criticising the show’s depiction teen suicide.

Sex Education also stars Asa Butterfield and Gillian Anderson.

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