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Law and Order: SVU - The Burden of Our Choices - Review



This week, we meet Evangeline. She's a devout Christian teenager from Ohio who decides to runaway from home and travel to New York. Once she is located, her parents make the drive to New York to retrieve her. They believe she has run away to meet up with a boy, Eric, from her hometown that moved into the city.

The detectives of the Special Victims Unit first visit Eric to see if he is aware of her disappearance and possible location. He says he doesn't know anything about why she left Ohio but that she is panhandling on a street corner. When the team eventually finds her, she collapses from exhaustion and dehydration. Upon further probing by doctors, we find out that Evangeline has been sexually abused for years and is 12 weeks pregnant.

Rollins and Tutuola go to speak with Evangeline but she says that her parents can't find out about "this." She already knew she was pregnant. She tells the detectives that she came to New York to have an abortion, something her Christian faith tells her not to do. The detectives are sympathetic and suggest she retain a lawyer.

When her mother and stepfather find out about the pregnancy and her abortion plan, they are furious and demand that Evangeline be released so that they can take her home. However, New York state law prohibits that and says that women of any age have the right to full access to any and all reproductive options. They continue to protest and the detectives also suggest they retain a lawyer for family court proceedings.

When the case heads to family court, Evangeline's lawyer argues for her reproductive rights, while her parents' lawyer says they are violating Ohio state law where she is from. Evangeline speaks out during the proceeding and insists she cannot be sent back to Ohio, even under the conditions that she be cared for by her aunt because her stepfather raped her. A court ordered stay is placed on the abortion proceedings. When asked by Benson, Evangeline says she told her mother about the abuse but she wouldn't listen and just got angry.

The case takes on an entirely new angle with the rape accusation. The parents both get defensive and insist it was an outburst from the devil. When detectives decide to DNA test the stepfather, they find that he is heading back to Ohio. He insists it is to care for his other two children. They surmise it is because he's running away.

Evangeline's mother still doesn't believe her daughter's accusation. She believes it's an act of revenge against her stepfather for disciplining her as "the head of the household." Benson would like to conduct a fetal DNA test to confirm that he is the father but she insists that, because it doesn't harm the baby, can wait until it is born.

When the trial resumes in family court, Evangeline's mother still protests the abortion of her potential grandchild. The judge insists that despite her protest, Evangeline has rights in New York. As the judge is preparing to hand down a verdict, a lawyer from Ohio, Forrest Graham, stops the proceedings and insists the verdict of the case could affect everyone involved under Ohio law. He threatens that anyone that assists in the abortion is responsible for conspiracy to murder, including the SVU team and the judge.

The Graham goes on a media blitz in front of protestors to announce that he speaks for those who have no voice (unborn children). Even when asked by the media if there is confirmation regarding the stepfather, he insists that the unborn child is more important.

The proceedings prove to be tough for some of the team. With religion involved, many of the SVU team and SVU adjacent have to come to their own personal and professional terms with abortion. Deputy Chief Garland reveals to Benson that, although he is a Deacon at his church and believes in the sanctity of life, he will fight for Evangeline's rights.

When taken to the state Supreme Court, Graham argues that he sees the case as criminal rather than civil, as it involves, in his view, murder, and includes premeditation by Google search and the assistance of New York detectives. Carisi argues that Ohio law that Graham references (the real-life recent heartbeat legislation) has not yet gone into effect. Graham acknowledges that his motion is "extreme" but that he will stop abortion and the killing of one additional life no matter the cost (while making a distasteful Hitler reference in the process). The judge denies his request and he insists they will appeal and take it to the US Supreme Court if need be.

Evangeline is still struggling with her decision, as she tells Rollins that people from her past continue to contact her and tell her that she is a murderer and trying to convince her not to have the abortion. She worries about her life once she returns to Ohio but Rollins can't guarantee anything because there's been no court order regarding her stepfather.

Carisi returns to SVU to reveal that the Appeals Court refused to hear the case, as the charges were ridiculous. Another SVU member must challenge their personal views on abortion, as Vice Officer Tamin gets angry about the state of reproductive decisions in America being made by groups of men. Benson reveals that her mother considered abortion at one time and Carisi chimes in, seemingly sympathetic of Fundamentalist and Catholic views on abortion being murder. Tamin calls him out as a Catholic and asks if he shares the same views. Like Garland, he says he has his own view and his professional view. Their conversation is interrupted when Benson gets a text that Evangeline threw herself down a flight of stairs.

Rollins' inability to assure her about her future and the future of her case led Evangeline to injure herself. Evangeline's mother insists that the SVU team has put words in her daughter's mouth and encouraged her to use words like 'rape' and to get an abortion. Evangeline disagrees and tells them that she wasn't trying to kill her baby but she wanted to kill herself.

Evangeline's mother talks with Benson and reveals that her first husband was physically abusive to her. She put up with it for so long and it only stopped when he passed away. Despite all that's happened, she is still insistent that the baby is a miracle and the DNA that makes up the baby is still unique and special. Benson tells her again that, in the State of New York, that's not her decision to make. It's at this point that Benson is able to get through to her that something that sounds unbelievable can actually be true. She gives her the ultimatum of believing Evangeline or believing her husband, which would put her daughter in foster care.

Back in court, Evangeline's mother says she now believes Evangeline about her rape. The court orders in Evangeline's favor and she is given access to whatever care she needs. If she is in contact with her stepfather again, she will be removed from the home by Child Protective Services.

Graham angrily approaches Carisi and tells him he's responsible for a child's murder. Carisi goes on to reveal the grieving process he and his mother went through alone after she had an abortion due to a fetal heart defect. When asked by Graham why he told him the story, he insists that Graham cannot possibly think it's right for someone in Evangeline's situation to suffer like he wanted her to.


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