Some lawyers are unable to watch procedurals like Law and Order or CSI without screaming at the television. My particular vice is AMC’s post-apocalyptic zombie horror series The Walking Dead, and lately it’s getting harder to watch without getting annoyed at the misinformation. Yes, yes, I know it’s a TV show adapted from a comic book series, not a documentary or public service announcement. But when most of your time is dedicated to protecting and promoting reproductive justice, it can be hard to be “off duty” when you are confronted with misinformation in the media. I’ll let you be the judge…
First it was the Season 2 “morning after pill” fiasco. Lori, who is caught in a love triangle between her husband (whom she thought was dead) and his best friend (who saved her life), finds herself pregnant. That is, she pees on a pregnancy test and it tells her that she is pregnant. She is already responsible for her young son in a world that has been taken over by flesh-eating zombies, with no help in sight from the government or anyone else, and she is not even sure whose baby it is. So she sends Glenn, the group’s scout, into the zombie-infested town to get some undisclosed medication from the pharmacy. I think, wow, is it possible that this small town pharmacy carries Cytotec (misoprostol) when so many women have a hard time accessing it in the real world? And is it possible that we’re about to see a compassionate treatment of a woman who has a pretty darned good non-medical reason for terminating? After being attacked by a zombie in the pharmacy, Glenn and his girlfriend Maggie return with a cardboard sheath of pills marked “Morning After Pill” in giant letters. “Here’s your abortion pills!” spits a furious Maggie. For someone who manages to remain pretty calm during a gory, suspenseful show about the undead, I totally drop my basket at this point. Glenn asks, “Will these even work?” “NO! THEY WON’T! She is already pregnant!” I shout, but sadly he can’t hear me.
Lori reads the package insert, which in the zombified future apparently does not say that Plan B won’t interrupt a pregnancy already in progress, and takes a handful of pills. By now, I’m glowering. This is the point where we will see how carefully researched the show is. Somehow, I can suspend disbelief when the CDC says that some strange virus is causing the dead to roam the earth, but not when a woman tries to terminate a pregnancy using the wrong medication.
For better or for worse, we never get to that point, as Lori rushes into a field minutes later and retches contritely. The survivors have hacked their way through hundreds of zombies by this point in the series. They have shot people they know in the face when they reanimate. They’ve left living people for dead. And yet somehow none of this is a good enough reason to terminate the pregnancy. There is some subsequent brouhaha where Lori’s husband starts freaking out that she nearly aborted his [presumable] offspring, but I’m so busy writing angry letters to the producers of the show that I can’t hear what’s going on. Cue outcry, cue half-assed response from producers.
I admit, I found the whole thing so off-putting that I took a break from the show and didn’t watch the rest of the season until Season 3. The show picks back up with the group trying to find a place where they can hunker down until the now heavily-pregnant Lori can give birth.
Lori’s pregnancy poses a range of plot possibilities, including pregnancy loss ending in being devoured by her fetus because all people are infected with the zombie virus. When the group’s doctor (veterinarian, actually) is laid out by a zombie bite, their concerns turn to who will assist in the delivery. TV births tend to be infuriatingly stereotypical, so I don’t have the highest hopes after the show’s treatment of abortion.
Turns out, not even the zombie apocalypse can kill the “once a cesarean, always a cesarean” myth. Contrary to what Carol says, the fact that Lori had her firstborn by cesarean does not mean that she will “most likely” have to have another cesarean. According to the National Institutes of Health and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is a “reasonable option” for most women. In fact, most women who attempt a VBAC will succeed. Experts recommend that women attempt VBAC in a location with surgical capabilities “immediately available,” but chances are that the surgical capabilities they were contemplating were a notch above a housewife whose only surgical experience is with zombies wielding an unsanitized scalpel in an abandoned prison.
Sure, I might be overreacting. But considering how hard it is for many women to access reproductive health care and information, you can’t blame a girl for hoping that in the event of zombie apocalypse, shame, stigma, and misinformation would die . . . and stay dead!