If I Ever Have An Abortion, I Hope I Have Friends Like These
I was lucky enough to see a screening of Obvious Child this week and I can assure you, it’s more than just an “abortion rom-com”. It’s the story of standup comic/bookstore employee Donna (Jenny Slate) and how she gets pregnant after a one night stand that was induced by a breakup with a shitty boyfriend and losing her job…and a lot of alcohol. This one night stand results in an unplanned and very unwanted pregnancy, and the movie could’ve taken the obvious route of Donna having an unrealistic sudden change of heart about motherhood and having the kid anyway. But it didn’t and that made me a very happy lady.
Unfortunately, we still live in a world where legislators are actively trying to take away our reproductive rights. Ohio lawmakers held a hearing on a Bill earlier this week that would ban state health insurance plans from covering abortions, even when the mother’s life is in danger, and certain popular forms of birth control. Basically, stuff that many Republicans have been trying to do for a long time. The sponsor of the bill Rep. John Becker (R-Cincinatti) says the pill is just fine, but an IUD is basically the same as an abortion. According to The Columbus Dispatch, Becker said at the hearing:
“This is just a personal view. I’m not a medical doctor.”
Well Becker, it’s obvious you’re not a medical doctor since you have your head so far up your ass there is no way anyone would’ve given you a medical degree. But, I digress.
Minor spoilers follow!
Our unlikely heroine Donna instead chose a more realistic approach, since her rights were not being squashed by old men who do not have medical degrees or vaginas. She knows that she’s not financially or emotionally ready to be a parent, she has no relationship with the father, and she’s not finished with the selfish figuring-it-all out stage of her life. And maybe she’ll never want a kid ever, and that’s totally okay. But the point is, she’s sure that she doesn’t want one right at this point in her life. Donna decides to get an abortion and it’s the women in her life that make all the difference.
Part of what makes this emotional and realistic comedy so, well, realistic, is that Donna experiences a lot of doubt when deciding to have the abortion. It’s not whether or not she wants to go through with it, but deciding who to tell and how to do it, that trips her up. Right from the beginning, the relationship with her roommate Nellie (Gabby Hoffman) is one that calls to mind some of the more real best friendships we’ve seen in media lately aka Broad City, Tina and Amy in real life, etc. It seems like they love each other unconditionally, they’re occasionally gross about stuff together, and Nellie makes sure that Donna knows the breakup isn’t her fault. All in all, a real A+ bestie. And once the pregnancy is revealed, Donna already knows that Nellie had an abortion in her teens, because they are best friends and don’t keep those kind of secrets from each other. Right off the bat, they can have frank conversations about the next steps that Donna needs to take. If anything, Nellie is the staunch pro-choice, you-don’t-have-to-tell-the-father-anything side of this debate. She’s against the patriarchy to an immense amount, providing almost an antithesis to Donna’s confusion over how to tell the father, or anyone else in her life, about her pregnancy and impending abortion.
The other woman in Donna’s life is her mother. It’s made pretty clear from the beginning of the movie that Donna connects more with her father and only sees her mom to keep up appearances. She does love her, but my guess is that when her mom comers her about her job situation and her stand-up comedy, Donna isn’t all about mommy dearest. However, there comes a point when a girl hits a low point and really needs her mother, and that’s basically when I got the most emotional in the film. Donna jumps into bed with her mom and tells her the truth about her situation, and what happened next made me want to jump for joy. She didn’t berate her or try to talk her out of the abortion, she instead opened up to her about her own back-room illegal abortion she had when she was a teen. Donna was relieved to know that her mother wasn’t going to unleash hell on her and that they actually were about to have something very deeply personal in common. Her mother telling the truth and being gentle and open about a very painful part of her life is what helps the character to know that she isn’t alone. On top of that, she’s even lucky to have the modern day Planned Parenthood clinic to help her instead of a table in a kitchen like her mother.
I’m not saying that to feel that you are making the right choice about your abortion comes down to knowing other women who have had one. I’m also not telling you that an abortion is the only course of action for an unwanted pregnancy. What I am saying is that this trying time and hard decision is made easier by surrounding yourself with women who have life experiences that you can relate to, learn from, and use as a jumping-off point for your own decisions and how to feel about them. Donna didn’t need the support of her best friend and mother. She didn’t need to tell the father and she didn’t need someone to take her to the clinic on the ironically unromantic date of Feb. 14 to get the procedure. She didn’t need those things, but she wanted them. Her choice was already definite, she was getting the abortion, but having these women who meant so much to her on her side and fighting for her cause made her rest easier knowing she wasn’t alone.
In a media landscape such as ours that encourages women to pit themselves against one another and slut shame girls for what they wear or how they act, we needed this movie. We need women who are unafraid to talk about their experiences, so the rest of us aren’t terrified when it’s our turn to go through it. We needed this movie to say that we can be supportive of each other and not constantly judge each other during the low points of our lives. I hate to sound like this is a call to action, but god dammit, maybe we need one. This movie surprised me in that it was casual but powerful about Donna’s choice. It shouldn’t surprise me because we need more of this. We need women talking about the experiences they go through while being a woman. We need sex education and to know what are options are when/if we get pregnant and just aren’t ready for that step in our lives.
I’ve never had a pregnancy scare and never had to contemplate abortion, adoption, or unwed motherhood. But if the situation arises, as it does for a lot of women, I sincerely hope that I’ve got people around me that will be honest about their feelings and experiences, show me some compassion, and make an incredibly tough decision a little bit easier.