The case of a murdered woman who turned out to be an abortionist gave "Law and Order: SVU" writers the opportunity to frame the abortion debate as "pro-choice or no choice" during the Feb. 10 episode.
Ultimately, Audrey Hale's profession had nothing to do with her death but the twist allowed writers to get in a few shots against pro-life activists (calling them "fanatical nuts") and portray the doctor as an unsung hero committed to her job.
Detectives John Munch and Tutuola, played by Richard Belzer and Ice-T, questioned the lead suspect, Dalton Rindell, about his beliefs regarding abortion.
"Which are you, pro-choice or no choice?" asked Tutuola.
After Rindell claimed abortion was "not even on [his] priority list," Munch insisted "abortion is the one subject everyone has a strong opinion about."
Detectives Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler (played by Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni) visited Hale's ex-husband and a colleague at her clinic, who both confirmed threats against Hale by pro-life activists. Hale's ex also spoke of the friction her career caused in their marriage.
"You can't imagine the screaming matches - me begging her to leave her job at the clinic, and her saying she had a commitment to uphold a constitutionally protected service," Mr. Hale told Benson and Stabler.
"A few years ago, an anti-abortion group posted hundreds of doctors' names, their home addresses and telephone numbers on the Internet. Then we started getting hang-up calls in the middle of the night and nasty letters," explained Hale.
He continued by alluding to the real-life murder of abortionist George Tiller, "And once that doctor was shot in his own church in Kansas this summer, I petitioned the court for sole custody but lost."
Asked about his ex-wife's connection to the lead suspect, Dalton Rindell, Hale responded, "Who's that? One of those fanatical nuts?"
Benson and Stabler encountered a pro-life activist from the group Operation Save and Deliver (ostensibly a nod to the pro-life group Operation Rescue) while visiting the clinic who first claimed that she was not happy about Audrey Hale's murder, but later conceded, "It is a blessing there's one less mass murderer out there."
Hale's unnamed colleague was the mouthpiece that offered "national stats" regarding violence against abortion providers.
"Since the 70s, there have been 175 arsons, 41 bombings," he told Benson and Stabler, after explaining that the bulletproof glass in the clinic was necessary due to a 1993 "sniper attack" in which the receptionist "was shot in the arm."
This is not the first time "SVU" provided a skewed depiction of the abortion debate. And if history is any indication, it likely won't be the last.