[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday’s season five finale of ABC’s Scandal.]
Scandal‘s Republican president may have just revealed his stance on abortion.
During Thursday’s season finale, President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) found out that his former flame Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) had a Christmastime abortion. What’s more, it may have revealed Fitz’s stance on abortion for the first time in five years.
Here’s how the subtle reveal plays out: Fitz accidentally sees Olivia’s medical file sitting on the desk of chief of staff Abby (Darby Stanchfield). Abby notes she’s not even sure if the file is real since it came from Olivia’s estranged father, Rowan (Joe Morton) — who is not trusted by anybody on the Shondaland drama. Contained in the file is the fact that Olivia had an abortion around Christmas — with Fitz putting together that her pregnancy was part of the reason the couple broke up after years of hiding their romantic relationship.
Olivia later goes to Fitz to bless Jake (Scott Foley) as Mellie’s pick for vice president on her Republican ticket. Fitz is then incredibly nice to Olivia — whom he hasn’t seen in months after their split — and agrees. Fitz tells Olivia that she never needed his approval. Olivia believes Fitz is talking about Jake, but the president is talking about a woman’s right to choose.
It’s the first time on Scandal that Fitz has revealed which side of the abortion debate he’s on.
“Fitz’s about-face is completely a function of his love for Olivia,” star Goldwyn told The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday, calling the decision for Scandal to feature a Republican president be pro-choice impressive. “He cannot reject her no matter what. Part of deeply loving someone is a predisposition to see the world through their eyes and this is a huge moment for Fitz. He was pro-life and, more relevant, he wanted a child with Olivia more than anything in the world. But he somehow understands that Olivia made a very personal choice and he instinctively respects that. It is a giant 180 for the man. But he is willing to sacrifice anything for her happiness. Fitz may be in a lot of denial here — especially given all the grief he has suffered — but he means it.”
According to a December 2015 AP-GfK poll, support for legal abortion rose from 35 to 40 percent among Republicans last year with seven of 10 conservative Republicans opposing abortion rights in most or all cases. Additionally, the poll found that six of 10 moderate and liberal Republicans supporting the right to choose.
For his part, Goldwyn noted that it’s pretty impressive for Scandal to feature a pro-choice Republican president
“At the end of the day, it’s her body and her right, but it’s his child,” Goldwyn told THR in November after the midseason finale that featured the abortion reveal. “And we don’t in fact know where Fitz lives on this issue. He’s a Republican but we’ve never asked that question [on the show]. I think everything would lead us to believe that Fitz would be ethically pro-life, even if he has a progressive bend like George Bush Sr. … But the bigger thing is not a political question; the bigger thing here is the emotional [impact].”
Abortion has been a regular subject on many of executive producer Shonda Rhimes‘ programming. In season four of Scandal, a case-of-the-week story features a female Navy officer who is raped and begs Olivia for help getting an abortion. Grey’s Anatomy explored the subject when Sandra Oh’s Cristina Yang has an abortion in season eight because she and then-husband, Owen (Kevin McKidd), did not agree on having children.
Rhimes previously said she wanted to take on the abortion arc in season one of Grey’s but instead opted to feature Cristina suffering from an ectopic pregnancy and losing the baby because the showrunner feared it was too early in the medical drama’s run to take on such a weighty subject. The veteran series also features Addision (Kate Walsh) revealing that she had an abortion after getting pregnant during her affair with Mark (Eric Dane).