(*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.