NRL News

Abortion and the human response to suffering

by | Oct 16, 2015

By Dave Andrusko

Amy Brenneman

Amy Brenneman

This is the last post of the week and it will be different. Why? Because the original intent–commenting on a column written about actress Amy Brenneman who said it’s not acceptable for abortion to be continually “demonized” despite being “the law of the land”–led me in a totally different direction than anticipated.

First, the backdrop. We learn from Ryan Buxton that Brenneman made that comment to HuffPost Live host Alyona Minkovski during a conversation on Thursday.

“When I was 21, I terminated a pregnancy and was so grateful, and it was not a bad experience, and I had a sweet boyfriend and a sweet doctor,” Brenneman told HuffPost Live.

The shocking lack of progress since then is what prompted her to sign the Ms. petition in 2006. “I thought, ‘Oh my god. The fact that 20 years later, it would be worse?'” she said. “Going backwards — it’s insane to me.”

Okay, nothing new here. The interesting twist is that Brenneman is one of the stars in the HBO series, “The Leftovers.”

I did not see Season One or the opening episodes of Season Two, but here’s an explanation from Prof. Alissa Wilkinson:

The show’s first season told the story of a group of characters in Mapleton, New York several years after “the disappearance,” a still-unexplained Rapture-like event in which about two percent of the world’s population suddenly just vanished—children and adults, religious and atheist, sinful and saintly. But because the event corresponded to no set of beliefs belonging to an organized religion (some of the most believing and righteous were, well, left behind), the world was left without an explanation.

But as Wilkinson makes clear

Watching the first season, I realized that this was not really a show about the Rapture or organized religious practice. Rather, it’s a show about grief, and the way people respond to it: self-destruction, denial, depression, guilt, fear, and just plain going off the deep end.

I don’t know Brenneman or much beyond what I read in Buxton’s story. And that is that in 2006 Brenneman joined a bunch of celebrities in a reboot of the 1972 debut issue of Ms. Magazine where they signed a petition declaring, “We Had Abortions.”

But I can’t help wondering if it’s as simple as all that for Brenneman? Not a bad experience, understanding “sweet” boyfriend, and “sweet” abortionist.

Is that all there is?

Is that all there was?

I am not suggesting all women who abort will “go off the deep end.” I am suggesting they all deal with what is, after all, a conscious decision to end the life of their own child in their own way.

And that for many/most, there is grief that will manifest itself in many and various ways, including signing ads shouting that “We had abortions” and harshly criticizing those who understand that the baby’s death was a tragedy.

Wilkinson ends her exploration of “The Leftovers” with the final paragraph of a story written about the new season by the New York Times’ James Poniewozik:

There is religion all over “The Leftovers,” from cults to mainstream Christian denominations, though the series itself has no consistent religious position. But in its willingness to sit with these questions, it makes a strong case for being the most spiritual drama on television. That this lovely, melancholy exploration of loss was able to find a place on secular TV, hone its technique and return stronger, is, itself, a minor miracle.

But the paragraph before is perhaps more relevant for us.

“The Leftovers” is about absence, about the human response to suffering and knowing that no explanation is forthcoming.

The human response to the absence of that unwanted child –whose absence is not a mystery but the result of a decision we made–is one of the great tragedies of our time, made more so by the insistence of women like Brenneman that a unborn child’s death is much ado about nothing.

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Categories: Abortion