In Buffy the Vampire Slayer #6, on stands today, there are huge developments and huge decisions in store for the Buffy Summers, the heroine of the cult-favorite television show that has continued as a Dark Horse Comic book since its small screen finale. Consequently, huge spoilers follow.Buffy Summers is pregnant. In the early pages of the issue, the Slayer confides the news to her younger sister, Dawn, who asks the obvious follow-up question: Who's the father? "I don't know," replies Buffy. She suspects that conception took place at her recent housewarming party, where she blacked out while drinking, and has no way of knowing who might be responsible.

The next question isn't posed directly by any of the characters, but it hangs over nearly every page in the comic: What will Buffy decide to do about the pregnancy? She is not only a single woman facing the prospect of having a child without the support of a partner, but also a Slayer who faces tremendous danger on a daily basis, and having a baby would not be a simple decision or a safe one. Buffy spends much of the issue working through the issue in conversations with her friends, and in the final pages of the comic, she reveals her decision: She is going to have an abortion.

It's a plot point that nonetheless seems tailor-made for controversy, and somewhat intentionally so. As Buffy series creator Joss Whedon told USA Today, he hopes the issue promote will honest discussion about a topic that is sometimes seen as too hot to touch. "It's not something we would ever take lightly, because you can't. You don't. It's not an easy thing for anyone," said Whedon. "...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."

While abortion is one of the most politicized issues in our culture, and one of the most divisive, on a human level it is also one of the most personal. Buffy's situation is one that millions of women across the country face every year; while the rate of teenage pregnancy is now at its lowest level since 1972, a recent study indicated that nearly half of the 6.7 million U.S. pregnancies in 2006 were unplanned, and of those, more than four in ten ended in abortion.

Although Buffy has her own unique set of circumstances -- she slays vampires! -- many of the concerns that inform her decision are precisely the factors that so many women face: financial difficulties, the absence of a supportive partner, lack of stability and uncertainty about the future.

"Given the specifics of Buffy's life at this point in the season --- facing a new kind of vampire threat, barely able to keep a job -- it seemed like it would be dishonest for Buffy to not at least entertain the question of whether she should keep or end the pregnancy," added series writer Andrew Chambliss.

Both the pregnancy and the decision to end it are huge developments for the character, but ones that seem natural in the context of the larger series. The core metaphor of Buffy, at least initially, was that high school is hell, and that surviving it is a battle. The personal struggles of the characters were always at the heart of the action, and the literal demons that Buffy were never as important as the metaphorical ones.

That was always part of the appeal of Buffy; we got to see this incredible girl -- and later woman -- punch vampires through walls with super-strength, but we also got see her burst into tears when a boy she liked blew her off the morning after they slept together. She was always allowed to be both strong and vulnerable, to make mistakes or struggle, and to still be a hero. In short, she was far more human than she was superhuman, and that's what made the character and the series resonate with so many people.

Over the years we've watched her lose her virginity under tragic circumstances, get her heart broken, find her mother's body after her death from a brain aneursym, take legal guardianship of her younger sister, start a dark, quasi-abusive sexual relationship with someone she hates, and drop out of school in dire financial circumstances to work soul-crushing night shifts at a fast food restaurant.

It hasn't always been easy, neat, or pretty, and Buffy's decision to have an abortion -- and to really deal with it in adult terms as a complex, difficult decision -- makes the comic book feel more congruent with the original television series than it has in years, and takes an honest look at a difficult situation that has no simple answers.

Preview of Buffy #6:

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