(photo courtesy of Jessi Murray)
This past weekend, after my partner and I had conquered two full days of wedding planning madness, some girlfriends and I met up for a drink and went to go see a rom-com about abortion. Or was it an abortion movie that happened to be a rom-com?
I have been chomping at the bit to see Obvious Child (which is still playing at The Guild and you should drop everything you’re doing and go see it) since it came out. I had heard and read amazing things about it, and knew, as an abortion provider I needed to see it post-haste.
I will admit though, I was nervous. I was nervous that Donna, the main character would fall into one of two camps that people often pigeon-hole women who choose abortion:
1) She would make a simple and easy decision, have no feelings about it, and say, “fuck you patriarchy!” and the plot would move on
2) Donna would be distraught, devastated, imagine her life constantly without choosing abortion, and be the epitome of Hillary Clinton’s description of abortion as ,”a sad, even tragic choice,” but one we’re glad to have.
Often times the narrative surrounding abortion tends to fall into one of these categories, and while it is true that a vast majority of women feel relief after choosing an abortion, we must be careful not to dismiss the other real feelings that women have of sadness, sometimes regret, grief, and a whole host of other emotions. Recognizing these emotions doesn’t make it any harder to be pro-choice, nor does it undermine one’s ability to believe in a woman’s unfettered right to abortion, full-stop.
Let’s just say, I was happily surprised with the complexity, sweetness, and full range of emotions and humor that Obvious Child lent to the topic of abortion.
Through the course of the film, Donna learns of the illegal abortion her mother obtained in college, and discusses what to expect with her close friend, who has also had a termination. This film brings to light not only the very real fact that 1 in 3 women will have at least one abortion in her reproductive lifetime, but also that it is a fast, slightly uncomfortable procedure that is incredibly safe and common.
The film deals with abortion, a mostly somber topic in our society and adds a much-needed levity to it all. Because you know what? Sometimes my patients make the best jokes about their abortions. Because every difficult situation in life deserves a little bit of humor, and then we all move on.
The most genius thing about this film is that Donna’s unplanned pregnancy and decision to have an abortion isn’t the biggest thing going on in the film. It certainly is the main plot point that helps move the story along, but from start to finish, we get to know a complex character who is just trying to find her way through New York City life in her late 20’s, and having an abortion is at once integrated into the whole, rich story, but doesn’t seem to dominate over other themes of the difficult dating scene, complex relationships with parents, financial hardship, and the very common “holy shit I’m almost 30 and I have no idea what I’m doing with my life.” feeling. And that’s just how abortion should be treated in media, because that’s exactly how I see it play out in my patients’ lives.
They are leading rich, whole lives, they are parents themselves, have lovers, friends that are like family, are students and professionals, all integrating this one day, that they will think of sometimes, I’m sure, into the rest of their lives.
This film left me grinning from ear to ear as I walked out of the theater. Obvious Child is at once a deeply sweet movie about a woman’s abortion story, and also a beacon of hope for all of us out there that we can finally start seeing positive, wonderful, hilarious tellings of the full story of women’s lives in our media.