Abortion-Themed “Romantic Comedy” Fails for Good Reason

In Hollywood just about anything violent, vulgar, offensive, and otherwise in poor taste is fodder for a hit film. That’s why director and screenwriter Gillian Robespierre was so hopeful about Obvious Child, touted as a romantic comedy with a twist: the heroine of the story gets pregnant and, instead of keeping the baby, decides to get an abortion. How she tells the baby’s father about her “choice” and comes to believe that the killing is “what’s best for her,” as the Los Angeles Times review puts it, is what is supposed to give the film its unique “rom-com” appeal.

Explaining her motivation for writing and producing the movie, Robespierre said that “we don’t feel like women should feel judgment for making this choice. It’s private and complex, but it doesn’t need to be riddled with guilt.”

The movie, which premiered at Sundance and opened in theaters earlier this summer, was praised by all the predictable media. “Finally, a romantic comedy about abortion,” praised Los Angeles Times guest reviewer Susan Rohwer, writing that the film “subverts the trope that the procedure is tragic, something to be ashamed of or painful, and does something we rarely see on screen: makes it OK.”

Though the movie’s heroine Donna, played by one-time Saturday Night Live actress Jenny Slate, “isn’t thrilled at the prospect of getting [an abortion], it doesn’t ruin her life,” says Rohwer, adding that the film re-enforces the tragic fiction that Donna “is able, like many women who have an abortion, to walk away unscarred.”

Vanity Fair called Obvious Child “wildly funny and exceptionally raw and honest.” Likewise, Variety called it “refreshingly honest,” while Salon gave it thumbs up for not depicting abortion as a “major moral dilemma or a particularly painful decision or a trauma that’s likely to change Donna’s life.”

One pro-abortion reviewer praised the film for debunking the “8 biggest lies about abortion.” Wrote blogger Elizabeth Plank: “With humor and wit, Obvious Child dispels pretty much every single myth that mainstream television and film have perpetuated about abortion over the past few decades.”