The Hollywood take on constitutional rights usually begins not with the words “We the people,” but with “If it feels good, do it.” Its centralized location is the dropping zipper. In the vast majority of occasions that Hollywood's dramatists take up the celebrated right to “choose” abortion, the air is thick with propaganda.
Abortion has never been a major topic on the small screen, but when it does bubble up to the surface, the libertine left's urge to sermonize is as hard to resist as the urges that caused the unwanted pregnancies in the first place. The 1989 TV movie Roe v. Wade celebrated the lawyers and plaintiffs who wanted abortion to have the same moral weight as an appendectomy. Hollywood never bothered with a bio-pic on Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” of the case, who later confessed her sins and converted to Catholicism. Why ruin a good plot with the historical truth?
In 1991, the TV movie Absolute Strangers starred Henry Winkler as a humble accountant whose pregnant wife was in a coma. The poor bloke just wanted an abortion to improve his wife's chance of survival — that is, until two radical pro-lifers, the appalling “absolute strangers” of the title, tried to interfere and save the unborn child. In 1996, HBO rounded up stars for If These Walls Could Talk, which painted a horrific portrait of Demi Moore as a straying 1950s widow who dies of a botched abortion, and Cher as a heroic abortion “provider” shot to death by an ignorant “anti-abortion” assassin.
So when the WB drama Everwood took up an abortion storyline for this year's May sweeps and TV critics hailed its balanced portrayal, it would seem like a refreshing change. Sorry, I'm not buying. Is it really necessary to win ratings points with plots that dangle on an unborn child's demise?
As with the much more routine promotion of homosexuality, parents often end up tiptoeing through the TV listings trying to avoid subject matter with themes too mature for pre-teens. How is it that Hollywood and most TV critics, who share the cultural worldview of Tinseltown, cannot understand this?
Everwood follows WB's family hit Seventh Heaven. It features Treat Williams as a big-city doctor, Andrew Brown, who moved his family to a small Colorado town after his wife died, and focuses a lot on the children's struggles, so it's clearly pitched at young audiences.
As one TV critic explained, “The point of this whole Everwood exercise, it would seem, is to lead to awkward but important parent-child chats.” In addition to the abortion storyline, Dr. Brown's 9-year-old daughter finds a Penthouse magazine and gives it as a birthday present to a 9-year-old boy. Does Everwood hope to spur “awkward but important” parent-preteen chats on pornography, too?
The abortion plot unfolds simply: An 18-year-old girl is impregnated by a piano teacher who skipped town, and the girl's father wants the child terminated before her religious mother finds out. Let's offer some mild praise where it's deserved. The show did offer some nuances sure to upset the pro-aborts at NARAL. Dr. Brown explains how one can see an unborn child's organs at 54 days. He decides that he can't perform the abortion because he can't end a life. Another doctor performs the abortion, but when it's finished, the girl is somewhat distraught. The episode ends with the aborting doctor entering a confessional.
Ah, but Hollywood can't write up small-town religious conservatism without warning of its fervent menace. Dr. Abbott, the hometown doctor, warned his newcomer colleague not to perform abortions in this town, since “doing this sort of thing in this type of town can get a man killed.” Dr. Abbott becomes the reluctant abortionist hero, honoring a pledge he made to his father to avoid the “horrific things” of pre-Roe America from happening again in town.
That being the case, the concluding confessional scene — “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned” — is meaningless, since Abbott's pledge to his father shows he is certainly not penitent. (Who said Hollywood ever understood the Catholic faith?)
The lowest point of the show comes in an announcement between commercials. “For more information . . . contact the following local organization.” Surprise, surprise. The screen showed a phone number and an Internet address for Planned Parenthood. Any attempt at a balanced presentation would at least include the CareNet system of crisis pregnancy centers to offset the abortion mill listings.
WB President Jordan Levin told reporters he didn't want this show to be a soapbox for either side of the abortion divide. This brief promotional outrage, and the harsh vibes on small-town faith, ruined the attempt to avoid the same old shrill pro-abortion notes.
L. Brent Bozell III is the founder and president of the Media Research Center.