By Rachael Wong
Tomorrow HBO Max is releasing ‘Unpregnant’, a road trip comedy about abortion, based on the young adult novel of the same name. Yes, you read that correctly, a comedy about abortion.
The film centres around high school student Veronica who finds out she’s pregnant and decides to get an abortion. After realising that the abortion laws in her state won’t allow her to without parental permission, she enlists her ex-best friend Bailey to drive her 1,000 miles to the nearest abortion clinic that will.
In a recent interview about the film, one of the screenplay writers said she wanted to write a “comedic abortion story” to “bring some humour and make people more comfortable with the subject”, as “laughter is a way of taking away fear and shame”.
The problem is, there’s nothing funny about abortion.
Abortion poses serious risks of physical and psychological harm to women. Women who abort often cite reasons such as fear of intimate partner violence, coercion, a lack of financial and emotional support, and study or career pressures (Veronica herself is scared about the impact a child will have on her college education and career). Abortion ends the life of a living, growing, human being.
Women who grieve the loss of their unborn child after an abortion will no doubt be mortified by a film that attempts to make light of one of the most difficult and tragic events of their life.
The film attempts to ‘normalise’ abortion, but there is nothing normal about a woman feeling so desperate and so lacking in options that she feels like the only way out is ending the life of her own child.
Yes, we should talk more about abortion, and yes, we should reserve judgement and not cast shame, as it helps no one and we never know what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes, particularly the shoes of a woman willing to endure the trauma of an abortion.
But rather than trying to ‘normalise’ abortion, which is neither possible nor desirable, a better approach to addressing the shame associated with abortion would be to make sure the necessary financial, practical and emotional support is readily available both during and after pregnancy, so that women don’t have to make that ‘choice’ in the first place.
A young woman in Veronica’s situation should never feel as if she has to choose between her child and a bright future.
And for those women who do undergo an abortion, it is key that compassionate, non-judgemental support is easily accessible from professionals, as well as from their fellow human beings, who should be encouraged to understand just how difficult, tragic and serious abortion is, not how funny.
Rachael Wong is the CEO of Women’s Forum Australia