Obvious Child could very well be the best abortion rom-com I’ve ever seen. Also the only one. Despite the fact that it’s estimated that 35% of women will have an abortion in their lifetime, 0% of movies handle unplanned pregnancy realistically. Okay, maybe that’s unfair. But I can’t think of one movie off the top of my head where a protagonist gets pregnant and makes the decision to have an abortion.
When Donna (Jenny Slate) learns she’s pregnant in Obvious Child after a one night stand with a guy named Max (Jake Lacy), she immediately goes ahead and schedules an abortion. Yes, that’s right. Rather than spending the movie going back and forth as to whether she should have a baby, she goes ahead and makes an appointment to abort. And because she just goes ahead and makes the decision to have an abortion without waxing poetic about it, the movie becomes about so much more than that decision. I’m not going to say having an abortion is a casual thing that women should treat like a routine facial, but it’s also not a huge deal. It’s a medical procedure and the movie treats it like one. And because the movie doesn’t make a big deal out of Donna’s decision to have an abortion, there’s lot of time left to talk about other aspects of Donna’s life. Because Donna’s so much more than her uterus.
We’re so used to talking about the do’s and don’ts of abortion in terms of the most extreme cases — late-term, rape and incest — that we often forget about the other kind of abortion. The kind women get because they don’t want to have a baby. (Or for the pro-lifers out there who will scream “duh adoption,” they don’t want to be pregnant.) Women don’t need a “good reason” to get an abortion. The fact that they don’t want to be pregnant and raise a child is a good enough reason. Donna didn’t want the baby so Donna didn’t have the baby. Case closed.
While this movie makes the concept look so obvious, it’s a scenario that we rarely see played out. Instead we’re always stuck with leading ladies who get pregnant accidentally and decide to just have the baby and see what happens. Although I guess “decide” is a strong word. Sometimes abortion’s thrown around lightly as an option, but for the most part it’s not even really brought up in these movies. Woman gets pregnant, woman makes it clear she’s not all ready for a child, baby daddy affirms that they’re not at all ready, woman has the baby, everything works itself out! Usually with the help of a hilarious musical montage that involves crib building hijinks.
The lesson that you learn from all these movies is that your love for your new baby will make up for everything else. Even though we all know that in real life giving birth doesn’t solve money issues or fix relationship problems or even begin to address career consequences. It’s great Seth Rogen read the baby books in Knocked Up, but I still don’t get why a baby would result in he and Katherine living happily ever after. They had drunk sex once! That’s it. But good luck raising a kid together.
So even though I enjoy a brainless rom-com as much as the next person, it gets frustrating to see these women just pop out these babies without even considering an abortion. Especially when we know that many women in their situation would at least seriously discuss the option. While I’m not under any illusion that Obvious Child will completely change unplanned pregnancy plots in movies, I’m hopeful it will influence a few writers to be a tad more realistic when they’re writing these stories.