The unthinkable shmashmortion

Two articles (Globe and Mail, Toronto Star) have appeared in Canadian newspapers on the topic of abortion in Hollywood movies (and celebrity lives) recently. Both pro-choice articles attempt to describe something problematic about Hollywood’s recent depiction of abortion. Why hasn’t abortion been portrayed as a happy, realistic or an empowering choice for women in movies like Juno or Knocked Up?

“Babies, babies everywhere,” writes Antonia Zerbisias, as if that’s a problem.

Judith Timson has a curious synopsis of the abortion consideration in Juno (I can’t speak to Knocked Up, as I’ve not seen the film and don’t really plan to).

In Juno, the pregnant-teenager movie that even grandmothers are raving ecstatically about, she runs in horror from an abortion clinic where a pro-life classmate picketing outside informs her that the baby she’s carrying already “has fingernails.”

Sure. Yet she neglects to mention that the pro-life classmate was a source of mockery/humour in the movie as well, being the lone and somewhat awkward protester at the clinic. Juno’s initial response to the fingernails bit was more of “cool *shrugs*” than a “*gasp* you’re right!” Yes, she ending up abandoning the abortion attempt, but the pro-life classmate was portrayed more as a source comic relief than a voice of wisdom.

Ms. Zerbisias blames the “religious hordes” who apparently control Hollywood (uh… what Hollywood is she talking about?) for being “incapable of conceiving a strong woman who chooses not to go to term.” Ms. Timson feels “like [she’s] living in a time warp” because of the way pregnancy leads to children rather than abortions in these movies.

What both these writers fail to address is the obvious reasons why Hollywood wouldn’t want to mention abortion in these movies. They are comedies. No matter whether you think abortion ought to be a choice for women or not, abortion is not a positive or happy thing.

And it shouldn’t be. If it is, you’re not talking about abortion. You might be talking about things that are sometimes related to abortion (whether correctly or incorrectly), but you wouldn’t be talking about the direct act of abortion.

What is the direct act of abortion? What is abortion? It’s not simply a “choice.” Abortion is the act of terminating a pregnancy. What do human beings become pregnant with? Other human beings. Abortion is the act of terminating the lives of unborn human beings.

Abortion is a gruesome medical procedure, no matter how clean or how legal. Pictures of aborted fetuses are considered offensive because they are offensive images. Images of human beings that have been killed ought to be offensive! Abortion – even legalized aboriton – is an offensive and ugly act.

Both writers fail to recognize this.

Meanwhile, in real life, a great many teenage pregnancies end at the abortion clinic. Which isn’t to say that doesn’t provide a somewhat happy ending too. (Judith Timson)

“Somewhat” is the keyword here. The only potentially “somewhat happy” endings would all be complicated by the whole human life ending bit that’s central to abortion.

I’d want to be in Canada where choice is still a choice. (Antonia Zerbisias)

Besides the fact that Ms. Zerbisias seems to have a problem with the “choice” made in these movies, the comment begs the question, a choice to do what? That phrase is meaningless on it’s own and vague as a euphemism. Clearly, it’s not just any choice in question here. It’s the choice to have an abortion. What’s an abortion? Back to square one.

How can you possibly coherently lament “the unthinkable shmashmortion” without actually thinking about what abortion really is?

Abortion is one of the trickiest and most personal issues around. In practice, it’s still kept very quiet. Our society still finds it easier not to acknowledge that so many women among us – friends, sisters, daughters, even mothers – have terminated an unwanted pregnancy. (Judith Timson)

There’s a reason why it’s uncomfortable to talk about. It’s comfortable to think about, because it’s a very uncomfortable and unnatural thing. People don’t like thinking about abortion because it’s an ugly thing.

Of course there won’t be any attempts to glorify it, especially in a comedy.

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