Here’s something that is not at all destined to provoke yet another asinine battle front in the American culture war: HBO Max is going to stream an abortion dramedy next month. Unpregnant stars Haley Lu Richardson (adorable, love her, watch Support the Girls) and Euphoria’s Barbie Ferreira as a pair of teens road-tripping to Albuquerque so that one can get an abortion. In the tradition of Obvious Child, here is a mostly-comic movie about a woman getting an abortion that is also about a lot of other stuff, too, because abortion is just one part of the journey, it does not make up a woman’s whole life experience. I’m sure absolutely no one will have anything crazy to say about this and there will be no one demanding HBO Max be shut down and I highly doubt our diaper baby president will say something stupid and embarrassing about it on Twitter.
Honestly, if not for the pro-choice angle, Unpregnant looks like a pretty typical teen road trip movie. That’s probably the point—the extraordinary thing is not the abortion itself, it’s the lengths this young woman must go to in order to obtain it. Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always covers similar territory, albeit in a more stark and depressing fashion (NRSA is not interested in sugar-coating the enormous challenge that is seeking basic health services many women face in the US). Frankly, we need more narratives like this, if only to normalize the idea that abortions are, well, normal (and I am well aware not every country has this hang-up but I am actively unwilling to move to many states in the US because I know I will not have access to comprehensive reproductive health care, should I need it).
As Roger Ebert once said, “The movies are like a machine that generates empathy.” For decades, the anti-choice movement has been creating empathy for fetuses. The movies can help create empathy for the women seeking abortions, and we need that empathy if we are ever to shore up women’s reproductive rights and bodily autonomy in this country. We need more Obvious Childs and Unpregnants, and also more Never Rarely Sometimes Always to remind us the journey is usually not fun and full of hijinks, but unnecessarily stressful and humiliating. Generate that empathy, movies, and maybe we’ll make a modicum of progress. Also, I am here for any movie that features Giancarlo Esposito eating fruit off a knife. Maybe if he’d done that on Breaking Bad, Gus wouldn’t have been murdered.