Law & Order: Season 5, Episode 12

Progeny (25 Jan. 1995)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
7.4
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The murder of an abortion doctor leads to the prosecution of a radical pro-life leader, who hopes to use the trial to grandstand against abortion laws.

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Title: Progeny (25 Jan 1995)

Progeny (25 Jan 1995) on IMDb 7.4/10

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
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Drew Seely
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Jack Gilpin ...
Dr. Simon Reed
Anne Bobby ...
Nancy Gunther
Cynthia Vance ...
Joanne Jenkins
Thomas Schall ...
Randall Jenkins
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Dr. Rachel Moran
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Chung
Ted Kazanoff ...
Judge Daniel Scarletti
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Storyline

Detectives Briscoe and Logan investigate the shooting death of Dr. Eleen Reed who worked at a family planning clinic and had been targeted by anti-abortion groups. She had received many threats and there is a permanent group of protesters outside the clinic where she worked. The investigation leads them to Drew Seely, a defrocked minister who is clearly seeking a podium for his anti-abortion views. Seely ordered the hit but both he and the actual shooter refuse any deal ADA McCoy may put on the table. In the end, McCoy outwits him when on the stand. Written by garykmcd

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25 January 1995 (USA)  »

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Quotes

Executive A.D.A. Jack McCoy: [referring to abortions] When you were still performing them, would Mr. Seeley have been justified in killing you?
Dr. Rachel Moran: [upset] Yes. I was, in effect, committing murder.
Executive A.D.A. Jack McCoy: [puzzled] In effect?
Dr. Rachel Moran: I was committing murder.
Executive A.D.A. Jack McCoy: All right. Would you please stand up?
[to the bailiff]
Executive A.D.A. Jack McCoy: Officer, arrest this woman!
Judge Daniel Scarletti: Mr. McCoy!
Executive A.D.A. Jack McCoy: We've just heard a confession of murder, Your Honour. Officer!
Judge Daniel Scarletti: I'm not amused, Mr. McCoy!
[...]
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User Reviews

 
Murder by Paradox.
23 February 2011 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

This is a rather more engaging episode in a fine series. It's interesting not because it's particularly well structured or performed but because the issue with which it deals still resonates.

A young woman doctor is shot in the head and killed at her parking lot. Brisco and Logan determine that she provided abortion services and was under constant threat. The killing is traced to a rabid pro-life demonstrator and his guru, a former priest. ("Former" because "Law and Order" will only go so far in challenging its audiences.) The mentor, Edward Herrmann, leads a group of committed demonstrators, supplies them with pamphlets and other ideological materials, and urges them to action. The murderer himself is toast, but Herrmann decides to defend himself and have his day in court.

It leads to some interesting exchanges between McCoy and Herrmann. Both sides present their arguments persuasively and the episode ends with Herrmann, a conscientious objector during the Vietnam Warm, slumping in the witness chair, realizing that if murder of the unborn is wrong, then murder is in itself an immoral act. It's paradoxical to commit murder to prevent murder. It's difficult to believe that an ideologue like Herrmann would be convinced by such logic.

However, what's particularly interesting is that four years after this episode aired, an abortion provider, Dr. Tiller, in Wichita, Kansas, was shot in the head and killed while attending a church service. Subsequent doctors who have tried to provide similar services in that part of Kansas have been harassed in countless ways, some similar to those used against the victim in this episode, and others that go far beyond the fictional.

For instance, if Hermann and his group demonstrated outside the clinic and called the fictional doctor at home with threats and obscenities, the female doctor now trying to set up practice in Wichita in place of Dr. Tiller is followed by agents of a pro-life group. The names of her out-of-town clients are unavailable but elected city officials have compared her list of visiting patients with out-of-town occupants of nearby motels. It allows the pro-life members to determine the names and addresses of some of those she counsels, and to threaten them wherever they live. Local patients have been followed to their homes. Realtors who consider renting clinic space have been harassed. In summary, if the fictional abortion provider in this episode was harassed, her real-life counterparts (and her patients) have had their lives made almost unbearable by threats and obscenities.

It's unlikely that these committed pro-life activists would be disillusioned by a chain of reasoning described by McCoy. The quartet that bombed an abortion clinic on Christmas in 1984 called the act "a birthday gift to Jesus." Committed ideologues of any type, not just pro-lifers, are likely to be impervious to reason because the axioms of morality trump logic every time.


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