Sunday, April 5, 2020
By Co- Editor Prof. Justine Dunlap
Perhaps your Netflix queue recently has included catching up with Season 8 of Call the Midwife. The series is set in 1964 in Poplar, a poor and working-class East London neighborhood. Its storyline of what happened to poor women who were unable to obtain a legal, safe abortion could not be more timely, poignant, or persuasive at the moment. Last month, the Supreme Court heard arguments about a Louisiana anti-abortion law that hews closely to a Texas law struck down by the Court in 2016. The laws may be the same but the Court composition is different. So, a result that should be easily predictable is not.
Even more presently, Texas is at it again. As non-essential medical services are being curtailed to open spaces for the treatment of COVID 19 patients, Texas, along with Oklahoma, Ohio, and Alabama, have declared abortion services to be non-essential. For many women, that decree is dispositive; the window for getting the procedure may well expire before such an order is lifted. Litigation has ensued. Courts in Ohio and Alabama have enjoined their laws but Texas and Oklahoma suits have been unsuccessful to date.
According to NPR, Dr. Bhavik Kumar, a doctor at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston, said that many women are grasping for alternatives even though they are unsafe. They ask “what they can do themselves, how they can use things at home, different herbs or vitamins or objects to help them not be pregnant. " This scene is virtually straight out of several Call the Midwife Season 8 episodes. And as a character in the series put it: “I’ve seen them cry. The girls who are trying to feed five kids on a can of corned beef. Wives with black eyes covered in panstick, and a husband who drinks a skinful every night.”
For a needed dose of compassion and perhaps more than a soupcon of shame, the governors of the states that are taking advantage of this pandemic and putting more women’s lives at risk should be required to watch the series.