Buffy the Unborn Slayer?

Popular action-drama Buffy the Vampire Slayer may have left the airwaves in 2003, but the adventure continues in a comic book series produced by original series creator Joss Whedon. This week, the comic caught the attention of USA Today for an upcoming story in which protagonist Buffy Summers finds herself single, jobless, and pregnant after a drunken party she barely remembers. Unwilling to simultaneously deal with both parenthood and monster fighting, she plans to have an abortion.

Whedon explains:

“Buffy was always about the arc of a life, and it wasn’t ever going to be one of those shows where they were perpetually in high school and never asked why,” Whedon says. “It was about change. So there’s never a time when Buffy’s life isn’t relevant.” […]

“It offends me that people who purport to be discussing a decision that is as crucial and painful as any a young woman has to make won’t even say something that they think is going to make some people angry.”

Right off the bat, the story’s premise seems highly suspect: after seven seasons’ worth of fighting evil and having the weight of the world on her shoulders, Buffy still lets her guard down so fully that she can get unknowingly impregnated by strangers? I understand the value of flawed characters who learn through mistakes, but come on. You’d think the life of a superhero would drill a certain sense of responsibility into someone. Even setting aside the morality, aren’t drunken blackouts a prime opportunity for bad guys to attack? If they really wanted to tell a story about unplanned pregnancy, how hard would it have been to, say, give Buffy a genuine romantic interest who bails at the prospect of fatherhood?

Despite Buffy’s definite sounding “I’m going to have an abortion” declaration, there are signs that the story could go either way. On the one hand, Whedon’s talk of abortion being a “painful” decision for young women may be true as far as it goes, but such rhetoric is often code for pro-choicers who really mean it’s too painful a decision for any of us judgmental anti-choice yahoos to intrude on. And while I never watched Buffy myself, I did watch Whedon’s short-lived sci-fi series Firefly, a couple episodes of which indicate Whedon has a rather lax view of sexual mores.

On the other hand, Buffy’s baby isn’t dead yet, and if Comics Alliance’s preview is any indication, our heroine might still change her mind—Buffy is shown having a conversation with Robin Wood (I think; thanks, Wikipedia!), the son of an unwed mother:

BUFFY: I guess it’s obvious what I should do.

ROBIN: I don’t think it is.

BUFFY: What do you mean? You grew up resenting what Nikki did to you. I can’t put a kid through that.

ROBIN: I know. But I’m here because Nikki decided to have me. I think you should consider having the baby.

Lastly, one of Comics Alliance’s commenters points out that the internal rules of the supernatural Buffy universe have preemptively answered the central question of the abortion debate, by establishing that souls and the afterlife do exist. While writers bent on a predetermined outcome can do whatever they want to get there, it’ll be interesting to see whether ideology trumps the foundations of their own story. Will a heroine dedicated to battling the undead end up affirming the value of life, or surrendering to the culture of death?