P-Valley’s Katori Hall And Brandee Evans On Episode 7’s Powerful Abortion Storyline

Photo: Courtesy of Starz.
Spoilers for Season 2, Episode 7 of P-Valley ahead.
In this week’s episode of Starz’s P-Valley, a show that humanizes and honestly depicts the lives of Black Southern sex workers, viewers see a Black woman-centered perspective on one of the most relative topics in the U.S. right now: abortion. To recap, Mercedes (Brandee Evans) was forced to give birth to her daughter Terricka (A'zaria Carter) at 15, and was then forced to give Terricka away.  In this episode, she finds herself in a position where 15-year-old Terricka is pregnant and confused about what to do. While struggling with generational trauma of her own pregnancy, Mercedes creates space for her daughter to make the choice of whether she wants an abortion or not, with Terricka ultimately deciding to have an abortion
Even though Season 2 was filmed in late 2021 and early 2022, the world it depicts is not the world we live in today. Unlike Terricka and Mercedes, little girls in Mississippi and many other states have now lost their right to abortion. And mothers have lost the opportunity to take their children to receive safe, legal options of terminating a pregnancy — especially with lawmakers trying to criminalize seeking out-of-state abortions as well. 
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.
P-Valley showrunner and creator Katori Hall
This turn of events was something P-Valley showrunner and creator Katori Hall never imagined would come to pass. “When we wrote this episode, we never thought Roe v. Wade was going to be overturned in our lifetime,” Hall tells Unbothered over Zoom.  The themes of Season 2 of P-Valley resonate deeply with this time, as the show navigates COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on Black Southern communities and police brutality. “We wanted to create a time capsule of America. We just never thought that the today of Mississippi we were writing at the time would become the yesterday of Mississippi by the time that it aired,” Hall says. 
In Episode 7’s most powerful moment, we see Terricka and Mercedes hold hands as they walk into the Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization — known as the Pink House and one of the only places in Mississippi to get an abortion — amid crowds of angry anti-abortion protestors holding signs that range from “Baby Killer” to “Black Lives Matter.” Most of the protestors are white, but a few are Black, reflecting the complex dynamics at play in the Bible Belt, where Black pregnant people feel judged by both racist white people and religious extremists in their own communities. “So many Black women face this struggle, particularly Black women down South, due to a lack of access to sexual education. As one of the most socially conservative and religiously conservative spaces in America, abortion in the South brings up these very complicated feelings,” says Hall.
The Pink House was the at the heart of the assault on abortion rights. In the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, that pink stucco building is no longer operating, and pregnant people can longer utilize its services. On July 6, 2022, the clinic closed for good after a judge rejected the clinic's request to temporarily block the state's trigger law after the Supreme Court determined that U.S. citizens do not have the right to an abortion. 

Just as Mercedes felt, I feel that every woman, every little girl, every human deserves a choice. If we were shooting this right now, Mercedes couldn't take Terricka to that clinic in Jackson because it's now closed.

brandee evans
Brandee Evans, who plays Mercedes, tells Unbothered that the closing of the Pink House is “heartbreaking.” She continues: “Just as Mercedes felt, I feel that every woman, every little girl, every human deserves a choice. If we were shooting this right now, Mercedes couldn't take Terricka to that clinic in Jackson because it's now closed."
For Hall, it speaks directly to the marginalization Black women experience in reproductive care. “It was predominantly Black women who were going into the Pink House to get these services so they could better their lives for themselves and their families. This clinic in particular has been at the center of this huge war that is going on all across America, on every woman's body,” she says. 
And as the show makes clear, Black birthing people will be at the frontlines of that battle. Mississippi is one of the most dangerous places in the nation for Black women to give birth, with a Black maternal mortality rate shockingly above the national average and the highest infant mortality rate.  When Terricka is considering her choices, Mercedes tells her daughter that for Black women, “pregnancy is life or death,” pointing out that even the wealthy and famous like Beyoncé and Serena Williams almost died in childbirth because their concerns weren’t taken seriously. It’s a topic that Evans is deeply familiar with. 
“I had a stillbirth at 36 weeks,” Evans says. “Had they taken the concerns I had seriously, then it would've been a different story for me. But people just do not take Black women seriously when it comes to their health.” The fight in the healthcare system continues for Evans, as she is currently a caretaker and advocate for her mother. 
Consistently, Black women — and especially Black women in the South — find themselves stripped of choice when it comes to their own bodies and sexuality. This lack of autonomy echoes throughout generations, and throughout P-Valley, we see Mercedes viscerally struggling with these generational curses. In episode 7, Mercedes experiences flashbacks to her own teen pregnancy and forced birth. Her mother shamed her for getting pregnant, didn’t allow her to get an abortion, and forced her to give Terricka away to Terricka’s father’s wife. 

Storytelling is about reflection. It's also about creating empathy. I hope [the episode] invigorates people to fight, and forces them to put themselves in a Black woman’s shoes.

katori hall
At one point, Mercedes slaps Terricka after her daughter makes a cruel comment. When Terricka then says she’ll never hit her own daughter, Mercedes says “That’s what I said too,” and then we see a flashback to Patrice physically assaulting Mercedes mercilessly when she found out Mercedes was pregnant. At one point, Mercedes looks at the mirror and sees Patrice staring back at her. 
“Mercedes is trying her best to not be like her mother, but she's slipping back into her childhood and what Patrice did to her,” Evans says. “What I love is that you see Mercedes trying to go the opposite way. I'm glad that Katori showed that we should be trying our best to break those generational curses. That's what Mercedes is trying to do by giving her daughter a chance to make her choice, and also giving herself a second moment to look at herself in the mirror and ask herself if she’s being the best mother she can be.”
Terricka deciding to get an abortion didn’t  break that generational curse, but the fact that she was able to make the decision with support of her mother and ultimately come to the deicion that was best for her, allows for a different path for her life. Terricka  had the choice and agency to decide which path to take while knowing her mother would support her whichever path she took. That support and freedom to choose are things Mercedes never had. 
This message of choice is what both Evans and Hall most want viewers to take from this episode. “ I think a lot of times when you aren't affected by something, you don't take it as seriously. I hope that this episode makes people take choice seriously, go vote and make their voices heard,” Evans says. 
Hall says, “This is an episode that really is about the future of all of our daughters. Storytelling is about reflection. It's also about creating empathy. I hope it invigorates people to fight, and forces them to put themselves in a Black woman’s shoes.” 

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