Longtime fans of Downton Abbey probably think the writers don’t want their characters to live happily ever after. Understandably so, considering all the tragedies that tainted season three. But, one recent storyline is so reassuringly pro-life, it seems viewers are allowed to smile for once.
For anyone who hasn’t seen the popular British program, here’s a brief introduction to the family at its core: The Crawleys are an aristocratic family in the early 20th century. Lord Grantham and his wife Cora share a huge castle with their three daughters Mary, Edith and Sybil. It’s the middle Crawley sister, Edith, who is at the center of the show’s recent pro-life plot.
Known as the sister who always seems to be unlucky in love, Edith’s relationship troubles continue with her new lover Michael. After spending the night with him, especially controversial since Michael is still technically married (it's a long story), the latter mysteriously goes missing and Edith learns she’s pregnant. Her initial reaction – to both his disappearance and her condition – is panic. After painful deliberation, she decides to take a trip to London - to abort her unborn child.
Almost as soon as she arrives in London, however, she starts to regret her decision. Through tears, Edith has the following conversation with her Aunt Rosamund:
“I’m not even sure what frightens me most – what may have happened to Michael, or the baby.”
“What do you propose to do?”
“It’s hard to say the words, but I’ve decided to get rid of it.”
“How terrible it is to hear that.”
Later, Aunt Rosamund asks Edith if she’s thought about how her decision will affect Michael.
“I am killing the wanted child of a man I’m in love with and you ask me if I’ve thought about it!”
“I assume you’ll be away for the night because you’ve booked into some…place that will do this?”
A few things here are worth noting. First, both characters acknowledged Edith’s unborn child was a baby. Not a fetus or mass of cells - a baby. Even more significant, Edith understood she was killing a child by going through with the procedure. Finally, the disgust with which Aunt Rosamund showed talking about the abortion clinic Edith is planning to visit, reveals what she thinks of such a place that performs these unspeakable deeds.
The dialogue between these two characters proved to be profound enough. But, what followed was a scene I’ll never forget.
The clinic looked ominous even before they walked through the door. As ill-omened music plays in the background, Edith and her aunt finally step inside to find a dark lobby, the only light coming through a small window. In a chilling moment, Edith hears a young woman crying. She peeks inside the room from where the noise is coming and sees the abortionist trying to console the patient who just ended her pregnancy. It doesn’t take Edith long to act. As soon as the nurse opens the door, Edith proclaims, “I’m terribly sorry to waste your time, but this is a mistake.” So, she packs up her things and walks out.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only pro-lifer who was mentally applauding at that moment. I commend head writer Julian Fellowes and the whole Downton team for this weighty episode. What could have been a tragedy turned into one of the most beautiful moments of the show. Instead of succumbing to her fears and assuming she would be scorned for giving birth to a “bastard” child, Edith chooses to give her unborn baby the greatest gift a mother can give. As for the sinister aura of the clinic, it represents the tragedies that occur in similar clinics every day, no more so than the horrid conditions discovered at Kermit Gosnell's 'House of Horrors.'
The trailer for this Sunday’s episode reveals Edith considering another, better option for her new son or daughter: adoption.
So, even if you’ve never seen the Emmy-award winning show, tune into Downton Abbey tonight to see one of its main characters make a beautiful, life saving decision.