WARNING: Spoiler alert
LONDON – The wildly popular British historical drama Downton Abbey, now in its fourth season, is drawing pro-life acclaim for a storyline featuring a woman pregnant out of wedlock who visits a back-alley abortion facility, but ultimately chooses life for her baby and flees after hearing the sobs of a woman inside.
The show, set in 1920s England, has become a worldwide phenomenon since it began airing in the UK and Ireland in 2010. Now licensed for broadcast in more than 100 countries around the world, the drama has become especially popular in the U.S., where the January 5 season premiere attracted more than 10 million viewers – more than any other drama.
In light of all that, Edith will travel with her aunt during the season’s seventh episode – which is scheduled to air in the U.S. on February 16, but already aired in November for UK and Irish viewers – to a back-alley abortion facility in order to “get rid” of the baby, because, as she puts it, “I don’t want to be an outcast.”
But once she arrives at the abortionist’s flat, Edith struggles with her decision, telling her aunt, “I'm killing the wanted child of a man I'm in love with.” As the pair sit in the waiting area, a woman’s sobs echo down the darkened hallway. Edith gets up to sneak a peek at the woman, whose pain and regret is obvious. Edith changes her mind, telling the abortionist and assistant, “This was a mistake.” Hurriedly, she departs the makeshift “clinic.”
In a January 6 opinion piece for Live Action, pro-life writer Gina Diorio praised the series’ head writer for daring to show the pain and suffering abortion causes, and for having aristocratic Edith choose life for her baby even in the face of the mockery and humiliation such a choice is sure to bring her in the high-society circles of the 1920s era.
Downton Abbey “is a huge platform from which to deliver a message – any message,” Dioro wrote. “Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes could have gone the route of portraying life as cheap and abortion as inconsequential. Instead, he showed that abortion is not the answer and that life is, indeed, a beautiful choice.”
Diorio pointed out the metaphor inherent in Edith’s choice: rather than ending her pregnancy storyline with an abortion, the writers have opened her character to potentially rich new storylines, as well as adding a new character to the show.
“Just as in real life, the story never ends when an unborn baby is saved – that’s when a new story begins,” Diorio wrote. “And for Edith, as Downton Abbey fans will attest, the new story comes with a slew of new choices, including Edith’s struggle over whether to give her newborn baby up for adoption. But the most important choice has already been made: Edith chose life for her baby.”
Diorio added, “The message of life is always a message worth celebrating. Hats off to Mr. Fellowes for using his platform to spread this message to millions of people.”