Kathryn Lopez

Those hoping to be entertained with Valentine's Day-themed programming on ABC tuned into the wrong channel, at least if they flipped to it during "Boston Legal." For those 60 minutes, you were treated to a political lecture, more like C-SPAN's late-night fare, only with prettier people. It was a prime-time hour to celebrate emergency contraception and demonize Catholic hospitals.

The Emmy-award winning show that night included the fictional story of an 18-year-old girl named Amelia who was raped and brought to a local hospital while unconscious. The writers made the hospital "Saint Mary's," which is where the political party began.

Among those watching the show were "reproductive rights" supporters throughout the country, organized into "Boston Legal Viewing Part(ies)" by the likes of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union. Party favors were viewing guides packed with bullet points of statistics on sexual assaults and laws.

The heart of the Valentine's Day show was what is popularly known as the "morning-after pill," also referred to as "emergency contraception" (EC). Emergency contraception is meant to be used, as the name suggests, in an emergency -- marketed as a last-line of defense against pregnancy.

Currently, in eight states, hospitals are required to make EC available to rape victims. But the Catholic hospital where Amelia was taken did not provide her with EC or even inform her of the existence of the option. (Massachusetts, by the way, is one of the eight.)

Cue to "Murphy Brown" with a Bible in the courtroom.

Remember when the title character on the 1980s sitcom "Murphy Brown" wound up the topic of a national debate when then-Vice President Dan Quayle used the show to make a point about marriage and families when Candace Bergen's character had a child out of wedlock? Back then, with out-of-wedlock births at an all-time high, there was more to the cultural story than you'd get in most sound bites. Well, Bergen plays a law partner on "Boston Legal" now. Watching her, one couldn't help but wonder if there was more to tell than what the show's writers were letting viewers in on.

Sure enough.

In a key primetime moment for the activists watching, an expert witness testified that "the morning-after pill can only prevent a pregnancy." Various characters on the show would go on to laud emergency contraception's ability to lower abortion rates. The problem, which got short shrift on "Boston Legal," is that EC isn't that black and white. How it works depends on where a woman is in her menstrual cycle.


Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.
 


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