The eighth season of Call the Midwife just wrapped so this is the final Vanderbilt University School of Nursing guest blog post of the season. SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers.
By Hannah Diaz, MSN, CNM
Vanderbilt Nurse-Midwives & Primary Care for Women at Melrose
With this poignant episode, Season 8 wraps up many emotional storylines and even a few happy romances. The delicate topic of abortion was also again at the forefront. After the shocking revelationl last week that Valerie’s Gran, Elsie (Ann Mitchell), is responsible for the multiple botched illegal procedures throughout the season; Val (Jennifer Kirby) and Trixie (Helen George) are shown dealing with the legal proceedings and aftermath.
Jennifer Kirby’s performance was particularly remarkable, demonstrating pure inner turmoil over doing what she knew was right and preparing to testify against her beloved Gran. The trial highlights the tragic death of Jeannie in Episode 4 and even brings back model Kath from the season opener to share her story. Kath’s appearance spares Val from having to speak out against her Gran, and Elsie is sentenced to six years in prison for her actions.
This social history covered in 1964 Poplar is eerily similar to events happening in the U.S. right now. Abortion became legal in the U.K. following the Abortion Act of 1967, a mere three years after the events portrayed in this season of Call the Midwife. In the past few months, news headlines related to state legislature on abortion bans and public outrage from both sides of the political landscape have left me reeling. As a midwife, I have sat with tearful patients who must make these painful decisions on abortion in extremely difficult and complicated situations. I’ve never witnessed a patient who wasn’t deeply affected by their choice. Pregnancy is life altering and not everyone is able to deal with those alterations; in many cases, it wouldn’t be safe if they did. Through the realistic depictions in this season, the consequences of an abortion ban are clear – it comes at a high cost to women and their lives.
In response to current events, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently released a position statement strongly opposing the political efforts to limit women’s access to abortion care. “Across the country, legislation is advancing restrictions that would impose professional, civil, and even criminal penalties on physicians for providing safe, high-quality abortion care to their patients… Any of these restrictions would make safe and timely abortion care increasingly unavailable, which increases women’s health risks.” ACOG’s full statement is available here.
One of my favorite characters, Sister Monica Joan, is a constant fount of humor and wisdom. Back in Episode 4, we hear her say “In extremis, necessity finds a way. It has always been thus, it will always be thus.” Criminalizing abortion doesn’t mean women won’t have abortions, it will mean that they won’t have abortions safely or legally. Politics aside, we should take the lessons from history that are so emotionally laid out in this show and learn from them.
Hannah Diaz, MSN, CNM, is a member of the Vanderbilt Nurse-Midwives & Primary Care for Women at Melrose, the clinical practice of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.