The writers for NBC’s “Law and Order: SVU” seemed to take their cues from the pro-abortion lobby in the popular crime drama’s latest episode.
The Oct. 17 installment — “The Burden of Our Choices” — chronicles the case of Evangeline, a 13-year-old girl from Ohio who became pregnant after being raped by her stepfather. The young teenager, a member of a conservative Christian family, escaped to New York to get an abortion because, in her home state, minors are required to obtain parental consent to have an abortion.
As a result, Evangeline’s mother, Tammy, hires a pro-life lawyer who sues the New York Police Department for attempted murder for allowing her daughter to try to have an abortion, according to the Media Research Center’s News Busters.
Members of the SVU team — including Lt. Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), detective Dominick Carisi (Peter Scanavino) and vice officer Katriona Tamin (Jamie Gray Hyder) — get into a heated and clearly politically motivated discussion about abortion rights.
Their conversation hinged on Ohio’s pro-life legislation, which was recently blocked by a federal judge. The so-called heartbeat bill would have outlawed abortion after a fetal heartbeat was detectable.
Carisi told Benson and Tamin the court was still deliberating on Evangeline’s case. In response, Tamin said, “For how long? She’s 12 weeks pregnant. Any day after the first trimester, it gets more complicated.”
Benson then argued the state’s court was intentionally slowing the case down, in hopes of blocking the teenager from being able to get an abortion at all.
“I’m sorry, what century is this?” Tamin asked sarcastically. “All these old white men trying to control women’s bodies? I mean, how far off are we from ‘The Handmaid’s Tale?’”
“You grew up taking these rights for granted,” Benson told her. “My mother, there was a time when she considered abortion, and her only option was — was back-alley. The bottom line is, if you have enough money, there’s always a way. But it’s these poor women, these girls — in some states, they’re gonna see deaths. That’s where this is going.”
Carisi, who is Catholic, chimed in, explaining that many of his fellow Catholics see abortion as murder. Tamin, unhappy with her colleague’s comment, asked him if that’s what he believed, too.
“What I think is what I think,” the detective replied, continuing, “But if a woman is the victim of rape or incest…”
“I hear that, and it sounds like you’re saying that a woman has to be a victim in order to have control over her own body,” Tamin shot back at Carisi.
“Just so we’re clear,” Carisi replied, “my job is to uphold that girl’s rights, and that’s what I’m doing. But I’m sorry, I don’t see this as black-and-white. In my experience, no woman wants to have an abortion.”
In the end, the 13-year-old Evangeline was able to have an abortion.
For a little more context, Hargitay’s character has actually been fairly nuanced in her approach to the issue of abortion. In season 2, episode 20, for example, Benson was angered by the fact that, in New York, they were unable to argue for double-homicide charges after a man murdered a pregnant woman.
Benson was, in fact, herself a product of rape in the late 1960s.
As for Hargitay, she has long described herself as a Christian who doesn’t go to church every Sunday.
“Religion has caused wars and also a lot of pain, and I don’t think that’s what God intended,” she told Good Housekeeping in 2010. “I find faith to be a more private thing. For me, it’s about my personal relationship with God. I think God has a plan, and a big one. I try to live in gratitude and awe and to get to know Him better and pray that He helps guide me in the decisions I make.”
Hargitay’s husband Peter Hermann, whom she married in 2004, is also a Christian. In fact, she said their first significant date was in his church.
“I think God is very much in us,” she said. “Faith is a huge part of our life. And I think everything happens for a reason.”