Friday, October 02, 2009

"Streets" smarts

Lately, we've been enjoying reruns of the early '70's TV series The Streets of San Francisco, and something from a recently-aired show seemed worth noting.

In this episode, a young woman called Barbara (played by Kitty Winn, of The Exorcist and The Panic in Needle Park fame) chooses to have her out-of-wedlock baby at a home for unwed mothers, against the wishes of her hyper-feminist mother, who wants her to get an abortion. But it turns out that the home is in cahoots with a doctor who lost his license for doing abortions back in the '50's, and who has a nice scam going. When one of these mothers is ready to deliver, the doc over-anesthetizes her and then tells her, when she awakes, that the baby was stillborn. He then sells the baby on the illegal-adoption market.

Barbara doesn't buy that story, though, and goes hunting for the child. In the final confrontation scene, her mother tells her she isn't being reasonable. She rounds on her mother and says:

What's your idea of "reasonable", Mother? Pill in the morning? Sex at night? Abortion at the end of a careless month? That's not my idea of "reason". I know what it is to have life inside of me -- growing, through me. You never taught me that. You never taught me that life and love are the same. You didn't want me to have my baby. Nobody does. Nobody.

This episode aired in 1973, shortly after Roe v. Wade. You probably couldn't get such an intelligent and forthright challenge to abortion on the air today, but back then, the issue was still new and raw enough, maybe, to allow for a wider range of expression.