On the latest episode of Issa Rae’s reality series “Sweet Life: Los Angeles,” star Tylynn Burns got vulnerable about a reproductive health issue. Alongside her boyfriend Jaylenn Hart, Burns disclosed on national television how they navigated an unplanned pregnancy.
“No one around me has ever told me that they had an abortion, so I was really the first one,” the 26-year-old creative and entrepreneur said on the show. “And I feel like my family has this idealized version of me in their head, so I just felt like I would be failing them by telling them I got pregnant by someone I just met.”
The HBOMax series follows a group of Black 20-somethings as they navigate life, love and career together. Promoting young, Black excellence with a dose of drama, after a stellar inaugural season, the series returned for Season 2 on Aug. 4, with 10 episodes released in batches on the streaming platform.
In the series’ second season, Burns and her boyfriend of four years are grappling with the potential idea of starting a family — but head to couples’ therapy first to flesh out their past. During Episode 6, Burns shares with their couples’ therapist that she and Jaylenn had only talked for two months before a “situation” arose and they “had to part ways.”
Burns went on to say: “I had ended up getting pregnant and I told him what I was going to do. I was going to get an abortion.”
Despite birth control and taking the morning-after pill, Burns was pregnant and decided to have an abortion. Initially, Jaylenn was relieved, he said, but on one hand, he “wanted to step up to the plate and figure it out.” In the episode, he expressed regret at poorly communicating his thoughts on the issue to Burns at the time. He added that he felt unable to “man up and tell her.”
Burns recounted her experience, describing Hart as absent and unavailable the week before the procedure. The therapist asked the couple whether any external influences impacted their response or rationale. Hart said “yes,” referring to doubters asking whether Burns was really pregnant or just trying to latch him down for money as “a bunch of noise.”
“I was more fearful of just being a bad boyfriend,” said Hart. Upon learning that Burns was pregnant with twins, he said, “selfishly my feelings were hurt” when she terminated the pregnancy.
“I didn’t need him to be my boyfriend. You just need[ed] to be there. Now, I’m scrambling to have my friend take me to the appointment because you can’t drive home that day,” said Burns, retelling her experience.
Fans reacted online calling Burns brave for sharing her experience. And she’s not alone. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization dedicated to the advancement of sexual and reproductive health and rights, nearly one in four women will receive an abortion by age 45.
The Institute found that in 2014, “white patients accounted for 39% of abortion procedures” while Black patients and Hispanic patients accounted for 28% and 25%, respectively.
However, in 2019, 38% of patients seeking abortions were Black women, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). Burns’ story is one of few Black women on a scripted or unscripted TV show that’s helping to start conversations about the stigmas around birthing people’s experiences.
While some viewers may have made slick jabs towards Hart online, Burns was quick to defend herself. In a tweet on Thursday, she wrote, “the audacity for y’all to even think he just laid up doing nothing. This man works just as hard and makes more money than me and takes care of me, thank you”
With this refreshing take on abortion among other issues the show tackles, the series conveys that among these young adults, the pursuit of Black excellence is anything but linear and varies from person to person. For the “Sweet Life” cast, there is no right way to navigate adulthood and no one has all the answers but they’re figuring it out. The season culminates next week on Aug. 18, with the release of the final three episodes.