Law and Order’s Shameful Abortion Episode

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I’ve never really been a Law and Order fan.   The combination of the sensationalistic (not to mention completely uncreative) “ripped from the headlines” approach as well as Sam Waterson’s sleepwalking/drunk/both acting style has kept me from watching it.   But I know a lot of people love it (including my wife!) and somehow, almost 20 years after it started, it’s still relevant.

Which is why the show’s recent episode about the murder of an abortion doctor (clearly based on Dr. Tiller’s murder earlier this year) is so concerning.   The episode aired Friday and there’s been a lot of great commentary about it.   Kate Harding has a good take at Salon as does Charlotte Taft at RH Reality Check.   And I’ll quote the conclusion from Jen Boulanger’s article at Women & Hollywood:

There were so many opportunities for the writers to present the humane side of women faced with complicated pregnancies.   But instead we see respected characters on a beloved TV series cast aspersions on women.   This is deeply stigmatizing, even worse than how anti-abortion protesters shame women in front of clinics every day in this country.   This show did nothing to enhance the complexity of depth of women’s true experiences and only added to the sensationalism and stigma that already exists for women facing these decisions.

NBC should be ashamed for dishonoring the memory of Dr. George Tiller, a man who embodied principles of goodness, kindness, respect, and faith; and for dishonoring the women he helped, whose values told them that the best way to honor themselves and to spare suffering to the doomed life they carried in pregnancy was to end that life.     There was no dignity for either of them in this program.

- David S. Cohen

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