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Date Night at the Abortion Movie

Date Night at the Abortion Movie

By Heather Wilhelm - June 20, 2014

Earlier this week, I did something terrible: I talked my husband into going to a screening of an “abortion romantic comedy” with me. It was his birthday.

To my credit, we went to a manly steak dinner beforehand. Also to my credit, I usually have decent taste in movies. But over the past few weeks, I’ve seen glowing review after glowing review for “Obvious Child,” a film, as The Guardian describes it, “about a girl who gets an abortion and lives happily ever after.”

Variety calls it a “fresh and funny chronicle of a one-night stand with consequences.” To The Washington Post, it’s a “cultural watershed.” The New Republic finds it “vital and brave.” After winning accolades in this year’s Sundance Film Festival, then opening to a small number of theaters, “Obvious Child” is on the verge of a national release.

I wanted to review it—and to review it, alas, I had to see it. This is more difficult than it sounds, because as of now, “Obvious Child” is playing at exactly two theaters in the entire state of Texas, population 26,448,193. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: God bless the Lone Star State. That said, a “pre-screening” of the film popped up in Austin this week, for one night only—hence, our birthday abortion propaganda movie date night extravaganza. My husband is a very good sport.

You’ll note that I said “propaganda” above. That is an accurate description, but now that a national rollout of “Obvious Child” is on the way, the movie’s creators would beg to differ, despite the fact that Planned Parenthood has proudly announced that they “consulted closely on the development and production” of the film.

“A lot of journalists have used the shorthand ‘abortion comedy,’” director Gillian Robespierre told Variety, “but that makes it feel small.” The film’s true focus, Robespierre told Elle magazine, “was never will she or won’t she have the abortion. It’s will she or won’t she gain the confidence that we tend to not have in our mid-20s to late-20s.”

“She,” in case you’re wondering, is Donna Stern, the film’s lead character, a self-absorbed, money-strapped New Yorker who moonlights as a highly scatological stand-up comic. In essence, Donna is a six-year old boy trapped in the body of a petite, jaded brunette, doomed to flail at adulthood while uttering an endless loop of fart, poop, and underwear jokes in a disarming, chipmunk voice.

The plot of “Obvious Child” is fairly simple (warning, spoiler alerts ahead): Donna gets dumped by her weirdo boyfriend, loses her quirky bookstore job, and has drunken, unprotected rebound sex with a cute guy she meets in a bar. He is “not her type,” her friends and mother tell her, because he appears to wear working deodorant and have serious job prospects.

Donna gets pregnant. She decides, immediately, to get an abortion. She consults her friends and her mother and discovers that everyone in the world has had an abortion, even her gay male best friend. Donna’s closest female friend urges her to “get that f!@$ing thing out” of her body. Donna goes to Planned Parenthood and, taking Hollywood product placement to a new level, sits conveniently in front of a Planned Parenthood logo. She kind of likes her one-night stand partner, so she invites him to her comedy routine where she proudly announces to him—along with a crowd of oddly beaming strangers—that she is pregnant with his baby and will be aborting it the next day. Surprise!

The next morning, because men are naturally attracted to sociopaths, Mr. One-Night-Stand (his name is Max) surprises her with flowers and accompanies her to the abortion. He is cute in the waiting room. Afterward, in Donna’s apartment, Max jokes that they were actually just at the DMV. Then he wraps her in a big fleece blanket and requests that they watch 10 hours of “Gone with the Wind” together. The only section of this I am making up is the part about the gay friend’s abortion. That was just a test.

“We don’t make jokes about abortion,” Robespierre, the film’s director, told Variety. “We’re not trying to push envelopes or buttons.” The audience at my screening of “Obvious Child” certainly felt otherwise, at least with the following set of lines:

Donna’s best friend, on the day before the abortion, right before Donna goes on stage for her comedy act: “You are going to kill it out there!”

Donna, smirking: “I actually have an appointment to do that tomorrow.”

The good news for humanity, I guess, is that only half of the audience laughed. The other half let out an uncomfortable “Oooooh.” But, sadly, when it comes down to it, those two lines pretty much sum up the message of “Obvious Child”—and, perhaps, the forward strategy for today’s most ardent abortion advocates. Like Donna, the modern abortion lobby wants no moral qualms about abortion, no matter the circumstance. Like Donna, a growing number of abortion advocates know—and many even admit—that abortion ends a life.

But why bother battling science? That’s a losing fight, and America’s leading abortion supporters apparently know it. Sure, “Obvious Child” seems to argue, abortion may be killing—but it’s always a justified killing, and it’s completely comfortable and friendly and sanitary. Robespierre’s film refuses to lean on many of the reasons most reasonable people use to protect abortion: cases of rape, or incest, or genetic abnormalities, or the mother’s health. In the world of “Obvious Child,” abortions are no big deal, no matter how reckless they may be. Everyone does it, so it must be OK.

NPR calls “Obvious Child” a “momentous film of small, embarrassing truths.” I’d call it a flimsy cover-up of gigantic, eternal truths. The movie’s title comes from a Paul Simon song of the same name; Robespierre has told the press that she chose it because Donna, with all of her train-wreck ways, is obviously still a child. How could she possibly care for a child of her own?

The title, unfortunately, can work multiple ways. Robespierre might want to listen a little closer to the lyrics sometime: “Some people say a lie’s a lie’s a lie,” Paul Simon sings. “But I say why? Why deny the obvious, child? Why deny the obvious, child?” If you’re an abortion-on-demand supporter, I suppose, there are many reasons to deny the obvious. The truth is pretty scary. 

Heather Wilhelm is a writer based in Austin,Texas. Her work can be found at  http://www.heatherwilhelm.com/ and her Twitter handle is @heatherwilhelm.

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