Viewers moved by “heartbreaking” Call the Midwife abortion storyline

The period drama returned to highlight an issue that is still relevant today

Emily Barber plays Cath Hindman in Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife fans have praised the show’s writers for their handling of a sensitive and important storyline in the opening episode of the new season.

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The season eight opener saw a young woman come to Nonnatus House for help after a back-street abortion went wrong. Nurse Valerie Dyer (Jennifer Kirby) did all she could to help her as she passed the foetus in the bathroom, and locked the door to ensure that Sergeant Woolf, who was downstairs drinking tea, didn’t clock what was going on (the series is set in 1964, when abortion was still illegal in England).

It highlighted an issue that still carries great weight today, as activists in Northern Ireland ramp up their fight to legalise abortion in the wake of the Republic of Ireland’s successful referendum last year.

“This backstreet butchers storyline is absolutely heartbreaking,” user @EmisonKana wrote. “The hell women had to go thru back then isn’t right. It could go back to these ways for so many.”

@Emrobros said that the episode was a good example of the show’s depth, and lamented its reputation as light entertainment.

“It bothers me so much that people write off Call the Midwife as a sugary, rose-tinted period drama for a Sunday evening when it is consistently one of the best written dramas on TV that doesn’t shy away from the struggles women have gone through and are STILL going through today,” she wrote.

Charlotte Houston added: “dreadful to think that in this day and age women in Northern Ireland still don’t have access to safe and legal abortion services.”

The show’s star Jennifer Kirby also shared her views on the abortion storyline in an interview with RadioTimes.com, saying it was “very emotional to film and it made everybody feel very impassioned”, and confirmed that it will continue in further episodes.

Call the Midwife season 8 continues on Sunday at 8pm on BBC1

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This article was originally published on 14 January 2019