Every now and again, popular television gets something right. And when it does, it deserves applause.
I’m writing of the latest episode of Downton Abbey, which saw Lady Edith Crawley (played by Laura Carmichael) walk straightway out of a back-alley abortion clinic and choose life for her unborn child.
For those of you who are not Downton devotees (don’t worry, I’m actually one of you), let me try to set the stage.
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.
Of course, the story doesn’t end there. Just as in real life, the story never ends when an unborn baby is saved – that’s when a new story begins. 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.
Of course, we all know Downton Abbey is fiction, so why does this really matter?
Last year, Season 3 of Downton Abbey drew 24 million viewers in the United States alone, “making it the most-watched drama in PBS history.”
This is a huge platform from which to deliver a message – any message. 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.
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.