If only other programming on Fox News exhibited the understated restraint of “Facing Reality: Choice,” a special that avoids taking sides in chronicling young women’s experiences with unwanted or difficult pregnancies. Foremost, the conventional documentary draws attention to a fundamental but frequently overlooked aspect of this polarizing debate — that abortion often boils down to a no-win decision left to women who have already made terrible choices to put themselves in this predicament.
Indeed, the case studies in “Facing Reality” include a woman who seemingly treats pregnancy like just another trip to Wal-Mart — the kind of potential mother that even anti-abortion advocates would have to confess appears sadly ill-equipped for the responsibility of parenthood.
That would be Jeanne, 29, who has been in and out of rehab but also found time to birth five kids — none of whom live with her — when she learns that she’s carrying a sixth. Not much better off is Kayla, contemplating whether to become a single mom at 21 and how she’ll be viewed by fellow parishioners at her church.
Perhaps the most harrowing story focuses on a young couple that discovers their unborn child has a genetic abnormality that will almost surely be fatal within days of its birth, but they resist terminating the pregnancy because of their religious convictions.
Given the strident tone of Fox’s talking heads, “Facing Reality” approaches this divisive issue with surprising compassion, including an interview with a kindly-looking doctor who performs abortions. In doing so, the special almost inadvertently underscores how television tends to couch the abortion discussion in the harshest possible extremes, ignoring that most people reside somewhere in the middle — disliking the idea of terminating pregnancies but ultimately respecting a woman’s right to choose, albeit with restrictions on when and how.
Rival CNN has embarked on a campaign to produce more documentaries, while Fox has generally been content letting its primetime hosts keep the profit machinery churning. So credit the channel with dabbling in a more ambitious project as well as tackling a delicate subject with welcome sobriety. Allowed to continue, this is just the sort of thing that could undermine Fox’s chip-on-its-shoulder attitude by giving the network a good name.