The PBS series Call the Midwife is once again tackling the controversial topic of abortion. On the Season 8 premiere, which aired in the U.S. on March 31, Nurse Valerie Dyer helped a woman named Cath who was suffering a miscarriage following a backstreet abortion.
"I don’t care how this has come about, I’m going to help you, do you hear me?" Valerie told Cath. Actress Jennifer Kirby, who plays the dedicated nurse, teased that this storyline is far from over.
Scroll down for more information about that emotional scene and how it sets up the rest of the season.
Cath isn’t the only one who suffers a botched abortion.
Jennifer hinted that there will be "further cases down the line" after police refused to take action against the individual who performed Cath’s abortion.
"It’s a definite theme throughout the series, if you can say abortion is a theme," she told RadioTimes.com. "Valerie obviously takes it to heart, because she’s so connected to that community. It’s where she’s from… so the idea that there’s something within the community, that women are having to go to this level — I think she feels it very personally."
Cath ends up passing the fetus in the bathroom while Valerie and Sister Frances do everything in their power to keep Sergeant Woolf, who is drinking tea downstairs, from hearing the commotion. Quick history lesson: Abortion was illegal in the U.K. until 1967.
"That was very emotional to film and it made everybody feel very impassioned," Jennifer shared of the experience. "When you’re there and you’re filming the scenes, it’s always more shocking than you’d think."
Call the Midwife previously faced backlash over a graphic abortion scene.
Back in 2013, the series showed a botched backstreet abortion, complete with blood-soaked clothes, inciting anger among many viewers. And in Season 7, Magda, the Turners’ au pair, took drugs in an attempt to induce an abortion.
"No matter what, if you’re creating drama that has a lot of heart behind it and a lot of feeling and a lot of passion, there’s always going to be people who feel certain ways about it and feel passionate about it in either sense, both positively and negatively," Jennifer said of the controversy.
"I think us talking to each other about things, and especially things like that, that are very difficult and very sensitive — I think the more we can talk about it to each other and talk about it with honesty and openness and understanding and without anybody jumping to conclusions and judgments and things, that can only be a positive thing," she added.
Though backstreet abortion is a heavy topic to cover, series creator Heidi Thomas notes that it was a reality many women faced in the early ‘60s.
"The series itself is full of hope and optimism, but underneath it all pulses a dread that tormented too many women at that time," she explained in an interview with BBC. "It’s an emotional story, but it is also full of anger, and tenderness, and a thirst for change."
Watch new episodes of Call the Midwife on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on PBS.