The Cuckoldry of a New Era: TV husbands and abortion

by | Dec 10, 2013 | Catholic Mom TV Review, Pop Culture, Zombies | 15 comments

On the surface, two shows that I have recently watched (and reviewed on this blog) wouldn’t seem to have much in common. The Walking Dead is a modern fictional dystopia about a rugged band of travelers trying to outlast a zombie apocalypse. Call the Midwife is the memoir of a young midwife living and working in a poor London neighborhood in the 1950s. They are very different. But I just can’t get over their one glaring similarity. 
In both shows, a married woman finds herself unexpectedly and inconveniently pregnant. And in both shows her husband sits quietly by, opinion-less, as she decides whether or not to kill their baby.

What. The. Heck?
And the more I looked into it, the more I realized how pervasive it is on television shows throughout the years. If a married woman on TV has had an abortion, or even considered one, you can bet her husband didn’t have an opinion about it. All the way back to the very first TV abortion on Maude, through Dawson’s mom’s considered abortion on Dawson’s Creek, to Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy, it’s always the same. A husband mustn’t, of course, suggest or demand that his wife get an abortion — that would be monstrous. But neither can he tell her she shouldn’t have one.

Only on Grey’s Anatomy does the husband even venture to voice his preference for his wife NOT killing their baby. But in the end he drives her to the clinic like a good little husband.

On The Walking Dead, our manly hero Rick, when he finds out that his wife has taken abortion pills (which she then made herself throw up) asks her, “Did you really think I’d make you have a baby you didn’t want?” C’mon Rick, really? That’s what you’ve got? You who are going to lead your band of misfits against the zombie hordes and save humanity? But your wife can kill YOUR baby if she wants to? Really?

And it’s even worse on Call the Midwife. The pathetic, utterly emasculated husband featured on that show watches silently as his wife attempts to kill their baby over and over again by scalding hot baths and bottles of liquor, and even gets sent off to buy knitting needles, before he takes the kids out for the day so his wife can have his child, and nearly herself, killed in a kitchen table abortion. And he never puts up a fight for either one of them.
It seems awfully like the cuckolds featured in an earlier era of entertainment, so often the butt of jokes in literature and on the stage. Cuckolds were usually humorous, pathetic characters because they either didn’t know about or were powerless to stop their wives’ adulterous relationships. How much more pathetic are the male characters of today, who are powerless to stop their wives from killing their children in the name of choice or convenience, powerless even to voice an opinion on the matter.

Obviously it all comes of a clear agenda on the part of screenwriters. They wish us all to believe that having a baby is a WOMAN’S choice, and that men, even husbands, better butt out. But more than empowering the wives, these plots just emasculate the husbands. Men who should be portrayed as the comforters of their wives and the protectors of their children are instead just passive observers, of no comfort or protection to anyone.
And what a sad commentary that no one seems to care. Or even notice. So here is me caring. Here is me saying: Attention husbands of television! You need not sit idly by while your wives have (or more often, almost have) abortions. No! You can say things like: It will be okay. Or, We’ll get through this. Or, I love you and I don’t want you to kill our baby. Seriously, try it. It just might work.
And Rick, I’m disappointed in you, man. It wasn’t like you. If you ever find yourself a new, non-zombie wife, I expect you to do better. A lot better. Now, get back out there and kill some zombies. That is all.


  1. Erica Saint

    I notice. I care. And I thank you for taking time to write about it.

  2. Anonymous

    It's not just TV shows, though, it's real life, too. The fathers are not permitted to have an opinion, not legally, and frequently not even socially. The phrase "a *woman's* right to choose" is extremely entrenched.

  3. Kim

    oh yeah–highly entrenched into society. Brain washing.

    and this is why I don't watch TV…other than like a cooking show or home and garden show, I can't stomach any television at all. Its all this way; very anti-marriage, anti-family, anti-everything.

  4. Chris

    You hit one outta the park with this….When I clicked over, I as thinking of Maude and I knew you;d bring it up … I remember WELL that first TV abortion….it sickened me and it was how I learned about this evil bc it had just been legalized in NY then..It was ( a year or so? ) before R v W . I was 7 and the discussion at home ( I was the youngest of 6 and heard a lot ) about the show which I wasn't allowed to watch was vehement and angry.Later, I could never watch any of the actors in anything else again and despite how hilarious everyone said Golden Girls was in the 80s it would have made me sick to tune in……The impact of TV on our culture and way of thinking is huge, HUGE and you said it best right here.
    Thanks for being such a voice for truth.
    Enjoy your little sweetie today…and all your sweeties….:)


  5. Anna Ilona Mussmann

    It seems as though our culture has such a tremendous distrust of people that we discourage anyone from asserting any belief at all, lest it be wrong or oppressive. When "good" men in movies are involved in relationships with women, they seem to try NOT to influence those women's decisions and lives (I'm thinking of a male character from the show Road to Avonlea who leaves town so that his beloved will become a doctor instead of "merely" marrying him). It's an odd, fearful attitude for a culture to have.

  6. Katharine B.

    My husband would have MUCH more to say to me than "It will be okay. Or, We'll get through this. Or, I love you and I don't want you to kill our baby." If I dared consider an abortion. So glad I married such a man 🙂

  7. Shauna

    Wow, you are so right! I haven't watched the new shows that you mentioned but I did recently finish watching Boardwalk Empire. One of the main characters Margaret has an affair and an abortion. I really enjoyed the series but hated that part. Congratulations on your sweet Lulu, she is precious!

  8. Abby S.

    I also notice, and I think it's deliberate on the part of writers, advancing the abortionist cause specifically, but also, more generally, the emasculation of men. How many tv men are either intelligent but lovably bumbling (Bill Cosby and Raymond) or intelligent but incapable of emotional or moral responsibility (every doctor on Gray's Anatomy)? And these, by the way, are the good guys, not the villains. It's a sly plan: no one is saying that men are stupid, just that you can't really depend on them for anything (and, guys out there, that you don't have to be dependable in anything). If this is what our boys and girls grow up watching, it's no wonder that we're resorting to praying at Mass for vocations to traditional marriage.

  9. Micaela Darr

    I'm with Abby. I saw a flow chart in Facebook a couple years back that depicted whether you could participate in a discussion about abortion. The question was: "Do you have a vagina?" If you answered no, you had NO rights to speak of. It made me sick.

    I had a thought after reading this about that statement you hear in so many abortion narratives. "Don't worry. I'll take care of it." 'It' being a human life, of course. How many women just want their husband (or father of their baby) to change that one little word to 'you'? What a difference a word makes.

  10. Kendra

    All these comments are so amazing you guys! Chris, It's amazing how that Maude episode really stayed with you. It shows how powerful pop culture is, and the lasting effect it has on us and our children.

    Anna and Abby and Micaela, those are such good points. THIS is how our society is telling men that they ought to behave. We are telling them that nice men know better than to have an opinion. Someone on Facebook commented about how Adam fell into the same trap, to our lasting detriment. A pretty brilliant point I thought. And it just goes to show that there's nothing new under the sun I guess.

    And Katherine, Amen sister. Me too.

    And I agree with Bonnie, Micaela that was beautiful!

  11. Kat

    I was so disappointed in that episode of Call the Midwife! I kept thinking "come on man stand up for yourself, your wife and your baby" even if it means standing up to your wife! Ugh, sadly men do not have a say in our society whether or not their child is killed. I agree that maybe if the women felt more secure with the men and being taken care of by them they would not consider abortion in the first place,well most women anyway.

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