GENERAL HOSPITAL - ABC's "General Hospital" stars Genie Francis as Laura Spencer. (ABC/Ricky Middlesworth)
Credit: ABC

“I love my Laura today. I loved my Laura then too, but this is where it needed to go.”

In less than three months, General Hospital officially celebrates its stunning 60th anniversary. Over the decades, the show’s told just about every type of story there is, from the fantastical to the heartbreaking.

Believe it or not, though, there was a time the show was barely surviving and if you had told showrunners at the time that it would someday be the last surviving ABC soap, they likely would have guffawed.

But then came one of General Hospital’s biggest stories of all time — if not the biggest story that put the show on the map, turned its flagging fortunes around and made it a cultural touchstone: Luke and Laura’s love story. Their wedding drew in 30 million viewers and was the single most-watched episode ever in daytime history. Heck, today’s primetime shows would kill to get even a fraction of those views.

GENERAL HOSPITAL luke laura wedding sized

What so often gets lost in the shuffle, though (not, of course, from General Hospital fans who know their history), is how Luke and Laura began before they fell in love. While it’s not quite fair to say it’s a soap opera staple, in the history of daytime, there have been quite a few relationships that started from problematic, sometimes traumatic roots.

And it doesn’t get more traumatic than rape, which is, quite flatly, what Luke did to Laura at the Campus Disco in 1979. There’s no other word for it, as much as their history has been watered down and revised over the years.

It’s not a healthy trope and sometimes even those involved condemn it. That’s what Genie Francis did, as our sister site TVLine reports, as she opened up about what happened and how she really feels about it at General Hospital’s recent TCA panel.

“I think, when a woman says ‘No,’” Francis stated firmly, “that she should be listened to. And if you replay that scene, you don’t have Laura just saying ‘No.’  You have her screaming ‘No.’”

GENERAL HOSPITAL - Shoot Date: July 13, 1980. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)ANTHONY GEARY;GENIE FRANCIS

Addressing painful, real topics like rape is one thing, but asking the actors to then justify it and the love story that came after? As incredible as Luke and Laura became over the years that’s a burden that should never have been asked of Francis. Up until Lucky found out about the rape in 1998 and it was addressed, the show referred to it as something more like “seduction.”

That is not, though, what it was intended to be.

More: The return that’s bringing back Luke?

“As a young kid at 17, I was told to play rape,” Francis noted bluntly, “and I played it.” Francis didn’t even really know what it was, she admitted, “But, at 17, you follow the rules, and you do as you are told, and you aim to please.”

Now, though, “At 60, I don’t feel the need to defend that anymore. I think that the story was inappropriate, and I don’t condone it. And it’s been a burden that I’ve had to carry to try to justify that story, and so I’m not doing that anymore.”

And that’s something we, quite frankly, applaud. Fortunately, as is so often the case in real life, over the years Laura learned and grew from her experiences and traumas and became, Francis noted, the incredible woman she is today.

“She was such a victim as a young woman,” the actress admitted, “and to see it flip around and have her be… this powerful woman who is the mayor of the town.  She doesn’t take crap from anyone.  She’s a strong woman.  She’s a good role model for other women.”

See how Francis’ 1980s series fared in our new countdown of the 55+ greatest primetime soaps of all time in the new photo gallery below.