'Law & Order: SVU' Fans Left Speechless by Abortion Rights Storyline

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit took a hot-button issue in this week's episode and turned up the heat in more ways than one. In Thursday's episode, the team found a missing 13-year-old girl from Ohio, only to discover why she was running away from her parents. The case brought the team face-to-face with the difficult issue of abortion. Fans at home were left speechless by the twists and turns the story took.

At the beginning of "The Burden of Our Choices," new Detective Katriona "Kat" Azar Tamin (Jamie Gray Hyder) introduced herself to Captain Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) before Benson went off to the baptism of Rollins' (Kelli Giddish) daughter. When Benson and Fin (Ice-T) returned to the precinct, Kat said she dug into the case of Evangeline Miller (Kira McLean), a 13-year-old Ohio girl who showed up in New York and was reported missing.

Kat and Fin found Evangeline panhandling on the sidewalk, and took her to the hospital. There, she was tested and a doctor discovered she was pregnant and had been sexually active - or abused - for the past two years.

Evangeline ran off to New York to get an abortion and felt she could not tell her parents, who are fundamentalist Christians. They flew to New York with their pastor (Jamie McShane) and were horrified to learn Evangeline wanted to abort the baby. Her parents also fought to stop the government from taking custody of Evangeline, but she wanted nothing to do with them out of fear they would take her back to Ohio, where she could not get an abortion. Evangeline also accused her stepfather Jim (Zach Gilford) of impregnating her.

Benson tried to convince Evangeline's mother Tammy (Lucy Walters) to let them get Mr. Miller's DNA to prove Evangeline's allegations. However, Tammy said she would only do that once the baby was born.
Later, the family court judge was about to rule in favor of Evangeline when suddenly an official from Ohio stormed in to issue arrest warrants for anyone who ruled in favor of letting Evangeline have an abortion.

The Ohio official, Graham, led a rally outside the courthouse, while Deputy Chief Christian Garland (Demorne Barnes) said he would defend Evangeline's right to have an abortion. Graham pleaded with the court, compared abortion to the Holocaust and said New York should respect the laws of Ohio. The judge ruled against Ohio's request to turn over the SVU detectives, but Graham said he would take the case to the Supreme Court.

Carisi (Peter Scanavino) said the appellate court would not hear the case, so it was dead at that point. This inspired a debate between Kat, Carisi and Benson on abortion rights. The discussion was interrupted by the news that Evangeline threw herself down a flight of stairs. Tammy rushed to Evangeline's side and yelled at Benson for influencing Evangeline to make her believe her stepfather raped her.

Tammy later told Benson that rape was not in Evangeline's stepfather Jim's nature. But Benson told Tammy that Evangeline knows who assaulted her. Benson told Tammy she had a choice: Believe Evangeline or Jim, and lose contact with her daughter while she grows up in foster care.

At family court, Tammy apologized for not protecting Evangeline. She decided to believe Evangeline and asked for her forgiveness. After treatment from New York doctors, Evangeline will go back to the custody of her mother under the stipulation that Jim never be allowed back into the home.

In one of the final scenes of the episode, Carisi told Graham why his mother aborted a baby at 45 years old. The baby had a heart defect and they still grieved their loss.

Later, Rollins told Benson officials back in Ohio confirmed Jim was the father of Evangline's baby and he was charged with child rape. Rollins checked out of work to be by Evangeline's side when she got the abortion.


Law & Order: SVU airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

Photo credit: NBC