Monday, February 10, 2014

Abortion: Hollywood gets it right

(*Spoiler Alert: if you're behind on your Downton consumption this season, look away)

Or British Hollywood, such as it were.

Last night's episode of Downton was one of the best on-screen depictions of the reality of a crisis pregnancy that I've ever seen. Not because it was brilliantly written (though it was) or because the characters were compelling in their dialogue and emotion (though they absolutely were), but because it was realistic. At least, as realistic as the fictional depiction of an earl's daughter falling pregnant by an older married man whose wife is interred in an insane asylum can be. Ahem.

The truth behind most crisis pregnancy situations is not a political truth, as so many on both sides of the issue would have us believe, but a deeply human one: loneliness.

I don't mean loneliness in the sense of isolation, necessarily, though it can certainly be that, but rather, I'm speaking of the loneliness that affects someone who perceives themselves to be alone in a crowded room.

I am alone. I am abandoned. I am trapped. Nobody can feel what I am feeling, and there is nobody who can help me out of this place I find myself in. I am utterly alone.

That is what drives most abortion-minded down to the nearest Planned Parenthood or women's 'services' clinic. It isn't politics. It isn't even religious beliefs, or a lack thereof, necessarily. It is loneliness, and the fear that accompanies the desolating poverty of options that a woman facing a crisis pregnancy perceives.

My parents will kill me. My boyfriend will leave me. My Church will reject me. My husband will walk away. Her husband will find out what we've done. I'll lose my job. I'll lose my friends. I'll lose my life.

Abortion might be a buzzword in our culture, but the banality with which we discuss it betrays the truth of the matter: it is a horror, for every body involved.

With the rare exception of those abortion apologists who are so wounded, so enamored of this culture of death that they've pledged their allegiance to, and perhaps a handful of truly earnest practitioners who have deadened their minds and souls to the gruesome reality they participate in, hardly anybody is truly pro abortion. You might spend some time on CNN or MSNBC and walk away believing otherwise, but don't mistake the cacophony of a few shrill voices for the silent dread of millions of quiet ones.

Abortion is awful.

As the storyline for last night's episode played out on the small screen, we were made privy to Edith's visible interior struggle over her situation. In one scene she confesses to her mother that 'she has bad thoughts sometimes' and wonders aloud if she is, in fact, bad. Her mother reassures her that we all have bad thoughts, but that 'acting on the bad thoughts is what makes someone bad.'

If only more parents were willing to have that simple conversation.

When Edith announces to her aunt that she intends to 'get rid of it,' the older woman reacts with natural horror and pity, not with a callous agreement or an 'atta girl, you exercise your right to choose.' That isn't realistic. Nobody feels that way, not in the real world of flesh and bone and complicated situations and sorrow and regret. The media might (usually) want us to believe otherwise, and the small chorus of bitter and twisted voices promoting abortion for abortion's sake might want to convince us it is so, but let me assure you, it is not.

I have sat with women as they wrestled with the decision whether or not to take the life of their child, walked alongside them as they entered the bubble zone surrounding a 'clinic'.

If any of them failed to see the humanity of their unborn baby, none of them voiced it. Maybe the belligerent boyfriend accompanying them into the clinic did, or perhaps the aging and angry mother (grandmother, really) escorting them firmly by the elbow…but not the mother herself.

No matter what the media - or Cecile Richards - tells us, the truth is that abortion is always the fruit of a hideous, soul-wrenching decision bred of a lack of options (either actual or perceived) and most of all, that ultimate loneliness.

As Edith sat perched in the dingy waiting room of an illegal abortion clinic in post WWI Britain last night, she bared her aching heart for the audience as she admitted she would never be able to return to the nursery at home, the nursery containing her niece and nephew, her sisters' children.

"Yes you will, in time, you will." her accompanying aunt consoled her.

"I know that I will not. I am prepared to kill the wanted child of the man I love."

Edith's fear of rejection - by her family, by her missing lover, by her society at large, is so great that it forced her to consider what she herself recognized to be unthinkable: killing her own child.

It's never a simple decision, let alone a celebratory one. With few exceptions, the decision to abort is a painful one. And so is the decision to choose life. Edith, ultimately, did. And she didn't do so for political reasons (crowed the tired, predictable leftists blogosphere this morning) nor for lack of courage. Her decision to embrace the life of the child she carried was born from courage, from the decision to face the unknown rather than to embrace the horror of the known. And ultimately, it was a rejection of loneliness, of the lie that 'I am alone' and 'there is no other choice.'

May her courage, while imagined and portrayed by a skillful actor, breathe a spark of life into a culture obsessed with death. And may her fictional story speak to women living this an all-too-familiar storyline out in real life.


  1. well, as they say...'ooohhhh, snap!'. Well done. and Bravo.

  2. more thought, I think not only do the 'pro-abortion' people get this wrong, I think we, prolifers get it wrong often as well. If we treated people with compassion, talked gently, listened to the cry of loneliness, there'd be far less abortions. I understand it is difficult to do, particularly when we really understand there are children being murdered...but it essential in order to change hearts/meet the needs of women.

    1. I agree. And I wholeheartedly believe that there are upcoming generations (of which I am one) that have begun to realize and adopt a gentle, loving, compassionate fight for life. And I see the tides turning. And it is very, very promising!

  3. I totally agree, and I think it is so important for every pro-lifer to realize what drives a woman to choose abortion.

    Although I will admit, I read this before watching Downton, so now I know what happens, which is good because I'm the kind of person who peaks in the back of mystery books. :)

  4. Truly could not have said it better myself. Thank you for writing this.

  5. Wow, you put that into words and phrases so so so so well, Jenny!!!

  6. Yes! I was worried about how they were going to portray this situation, but the writers really did capture the truth about abortion and the motivations that go into it very well.

    How do you feel about Edith's aunt saying, basically, "well, since you've made up your mind to do it, I'm going with you." Was it the right thing to go and show support, or should she have tried to make a statement by not being involved? I can't make up my mind on that one.

    1. Hi Christine, I hope you don't mind me jumping in and offering my two cents. :)

      Currently I am a volunteer at Care Net Pregnancy and Family Services, a crisis pregnancy clinic that offers life-affirming support to women facing unplanned pregnancies. Care Net's curriculum is woman-focused, not baby-focused, because {they explain} as much as we want to save the baby, it is the woman who makes the decision and the woman who will need the support and help, no matter what decision she makes {I'm not saying she needs help because she is a weak woman; I'm saying that if she's come to our clinic, it is for assistance and that is what we offer}.

      I loved that Rosamund went with Edith, because Edith needed her, needed someone. As Jenny said so beautifully, Edith {representing women in similar situations} felt entirely alone, but Rosamund's presence was a physical rebuttal to that feeling. Yes, Rosamund was shocked and not in favor of Edith's decision, but she went anyway because she knew that Edith needed someone in this moment.

      You ask about making a statement by not being involved. While I understand that {and the principle-loving side of me agrees}, I think the focus has to be on supporting the woman. Rosamund going with Edith showed dedicated and unflinching support in one decision; what if that helped tip the scales and showed Edith that Rosamund would support a different decision, one that is just as hard to live with?

      When I first started volunteering at Care Net, I didn't understand why they wouldn't focus on the baby and try to introduce "facts of life" etc. But then I realized that they are focusing on helping women where they need help and offering support no matter what {we don't refer for or perform abortions, but we have counseling for afterwards if a woman chooses that}, and support is exactly what women in crisis need.

      Christine, does this help? Or make it about as clear as mud? :) I hope to add some perspective without being preachy, so how did I do? :)

    2. isn't aiding in an abortion on most examination of consciouses? or would this not count as aiding? that is a tough situation!

  7. I haven't seen the show, but I just had to tell you that this (your post) was beautiful. Really beautiful.

  8. I hadn't watched it so I didn't read your post this morning. But as it unfolded I had to check back here to check what happened because I just couldn't take it. Well said. I think you're exactly right.

  9. Beautifully put and in full agreement! So glad Downton took such a reflective, difficult look at this important topic! I have to admit I was so nervous Edith was going to go through with it!!

  10. Well said!! That same line stuck out to me, as did the Aunt's natural reaction. Very well put!


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