In last week’s episode of “Downton Abbey,” one of the main characters finds herself in a crisis pregnancy. In a back-alley abortion mill, she witnesses the grief of a post-abortive mother and decides – just in time – not to choose the fate of abortion for her own child. Live Action’s Gina Diorio set the stage in a spoiler article several weeks in advance of the episode’s airing:
Edith is the middle daughter of Lord and Lady Grantham of Downton Abbey. Seemingly unlucky in life and in love, Edith, who authors a newspaper column, has fallen for her editor, Michael Gregson (played by Charles Edwards). A night together leads to an unplanned pregnancy, and Edith is faced not only with the prospect of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy (in the 1920s, no less) but also with the reality of Michael’s disappearance. She decides to have an abortion.
Sitting in a back-alley abortion facility with her Aunt Rosamund (played by Samantha Bond), Edith agonizes over her choice, torn between the prospect of being an “outcast” and the knowledge that she would be “killing the wanted child” of a man she loves. After hearing another woman sobbing in the clinic, Edith decides she can’t go through with killing her unborn child, and she and her aunt leave.
Edith chose life because she was able to see the beginnings of what abortion does to a woman. She knew that it was unfair to the baby, but she initially could not reconcile what an unplanned pregnancy would do to her own life. She was unwed and had been unable to reach the baby’s father since learning of the pregnancy. Edith was in the self-preservation mode that many post-abortive mothers recall experiencing when faced with similar circumstances, in which the mother psychologically begins to view her child as a threat to her own life and well-being.
Edith’s saving grace was her witness of the grieving mother who had just done what she was planning to do moments later. Edith was spared the tragedy of abortion because of this, but women today are not afforded the same opportunity. With legal abortion, we see the procedure taking place in an isolated clinic setting. Women wait in a designated room, are ushered into examination and procedure rooms for their abortions, and are then herded to separate recovery rooms. There isn’t always a chance for abortion-minded women to see the immediate effect that abortion has on a post-abortive woman, who is often drugged into a stupor as she leaves the facility.
The testimonies of many post-abortive women, collected by the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, are the closest many women will come to benefiting from the life-saving experience of Downton‘s Lady Edith. Many women do not want to talk about their abortions after they occur; the memory is too painful, and the guilt is too deep. Sharing the testimonies of these brave women who have begun to find healing from their past may preserve future women from suffering the same consequences.