July 26, 2014

A Movie’s Real-Talk About Abortion Could Change This Country’s Conversation. ~ Deborah Montesano

wonder woman cartoon

Obvious Child‘s label as a “pro-abortion” movie is not exactly accurate.

It’s about living, loving, relating and the complexities that are involved. However, the handling of the abortion at the center of the story could change the way we talk about the subject.

I’m not going to expound on the trajectory of the film. Buy a ticket and see it for yourself. Take a friend. You may be more motivated once you read the insights I think it offers. The topic of abortion has been so distorted and inflamed by religious rhetoric and conservative political dominance that the lessons of Obvious Child are a welcome balm to the female spirit. So…

1. Women enjoy sex

Yep, they do, because sex is fun. Sometimes fun is an end in itself with no larger goal in sight, like a ride on a ferris wheel.

2. Women can have one-night stands that they enjoy

Surprise! It’s not just a guy thing. Yeah, I know the spiel about women need emotional attachment to enjoy sex, but it’s not a fact chiseled in stone.

Sometimes, sex is just sex because there’s no relationship involved, but there’s a lot of animal attraction. That can be okay. Heresy, some will say, but this is something women have learned since they became free of the obligatory bonds of matrimony before having sex. Actually, they probably learned it before that, so let’s just say they are now more willing to admit it.

Emotional attachment and intimacy in a committed relationship are qualities that both sexes usually view as desirable, and that deepen and enrich a committed partnership, but that’s not the whole story.

3. Pregnancy doesn’t necessarily create tender feelings

Not all women see the products of conception as a baby until it is actually a baby. When the sperm, which is not a baby, meets the egg, which is not a baby, the result is still not a baby. It’s a group of dividing cells called a zygote. After five days, the zygote becomes a blastocyst, which is still just dividing cells unless and until it is implanted in the wall of the uterus. If that happens, the blastocyst becomes an embryo.

Eventually, the embryo could become a fetus and ultimately a baby, but that’s not a given. See what a difference it makes to not speak of pregnancy in emotionally-laden terms?

4. Abortion doesn’t necessarily create shame and guilt

Many women who have had an abortion are not haunted by negative feelings about it. The reason lies in point #2—the whole zygote, blastocyst, embryo process, which unfolds over a period of time.

5. Women often see abortion as one of the best decisions they ever made

This is because most women have more going on in their lives and in their minds than motherhood. An unplanned pregnancy can uproot educations and careers and all the necessary preparation for creating a life that a person would want to live.

6. Shame is not necessarily the reason women are reluctant to talk openly about abortion

Often, the reluctance is due to anticipating the reactions of others. Sometimes they anticipate wrongly, but American society has done its best to demonize women who get pregnant outside of marriage as well as those who choose to abort—which, by the way, sometimes includes married women. The shame is society’s, not the woman’s.

7. Men can feel confused

Yes, men can feel confused and uncertain about how to respond to an unexpected pregnancy and abortion, yet still find it in themselves to be supportive of a woman’s decision. Without strong negative emotions mucking up the immediate environment, a man and woman can stick together through the event regardless of their long-term intent toward one another.

8. Women seeking abortions are usually clear about their options

And they have thought through their decision carefully. A doctor’s involvement is no more a necessity at this stage than it was at the moment of conception. If a woman needs answers, she’ll ask questions. After all, the word ‘woman’ indicates the presence of an adult.

9. Generation gaps aren’t always bad

A conversation between generations about abortion can take unexpected twists and turns that are not necessarily negative.

Women have struggled with the impositions of politicians and society upon their bodies since the founding of most countries in the West. Abortion has been a fact pretty much since pregnancy has been around. If every woman who had ever had an abortion openly claimed it, we’d all be in for some surprises. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what women’s rights organizations recommend. If we claim our abortions, people can see that their mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, friends and neighbors are the subjects of the discourse. Familiarity engenders more empathy than labeling does.

10. Birth control can fail. Duh.

11. Abortion can be treated humorously

… even by the woman having it. While I’m not that funny, Obvious Child is hilarious. So go see it—and let’s seize control of the conversation.


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Apprentice Editor: Jamie Khoo/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo:  JD Hancock/Flickr Creative Commons

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Deborah Montesano