In 1972, Bea Arthur's Maude had an abortion. The sitcom's two-parter drew thousands of protest letters -- two months before ''Roe v. Wade'' was decided. Since then, networks have almost invariably resolved such plotlines with the woman deciding to have the child. Not on May 5, when an abortion occurs on The WB's ''Everwood.''
In the episode, 18-year-old Kate (Kate Mara) -- single, abandoned by the man who impregnated her, pressured by a cold, angry father (played superbly by Kevin Tighe) -- wants Treat Williams' Dr. Andy Brown to abort her 2-month-old fetus. The show hedges its bets: She isn't a series regular; it's Andy's less-likable colleague Dr. Abbott (the subtle Tom Amandes) who performs the procedure; and Abbott hies off to confession for forgiveness.
But for a freshman ''family'' show to raise the topic, grapple with it evenhandedly yet decisively, and give Andy's assistant (Debra Mooney) a fine speech about how ''men make the mess, women clean it up'' -- merits notice. This is ''reality TV'' in a fictional context, making Bachelors, Survivors, and Idols seem blessedly irrelevant.