Unpregnant normalizes abortion in a way onscreen abortion depictions rarely do
If you haven’t seen Unpregnant on HBO Max yet, stop whatever old sitcom you’re rewatching for the fifth time and put on Unpregnant, a delightful dramedy about female friendship and abortion.
Unpregnant follows Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson), a high school senior who gets pregnant by her high school boyfriend. Knowing she can’t have a child, she makes the very smart decision to have an abortion. However, she can’t tell her judgmental friends or her religious parents, and since Veronica lives in Missouri and is only 17, the closest place she can get an abortion without parental consent is Albuquerque, New Mexico. Though they’ve fallen out over the years, Veronica enlists her childhood friend Bailey (Barbie Ferreira) to cross state lines with her to obtain the abortion.
Every teen should watch Unpregnant because it is extremely rare to see a movie that normalizes abortion. Abortion aren’t scary, they’re not insidious, and Veronica’s not a “bad person” for wanting one. It’s just a movie about a girl’s journey to obtain a medical procedure. That’s it. Oh, and it’s a super cute and funny movie, too, because movies about abortion don’t all have to be doom and gloom. Here’s why every teen should watch Unpregnant on HBO Max.
Unpregnant treats abortion like a simple medical procedure, because that’s all that it is. No thanks to the conservative right who exhaustingly refer to abortion with traumatic and patently untrue rhetoric, there’s a lot of fear involved with procuring an abortion and that’s largely because teens don’t know what it’s actually like. An abortion is just a medical procedure, up there with IUD insertion and wisdom teeth removal. That’s it. The most striking scene in the movie is when Veronica actually goes to the abortion center. She checks into a nice and clean clinic, she puts on a gown, a friendly nurse describes what’s going to happen, she gets anesthetized for a short amount of time, and then she wakes up in a room surrounded by other women who just experienced the same thing she did. And then she goes home.
Unpregnant dispels the myth about what kind of girls get abortions. There’s an unspoken stereotype about what kind of women need abortions. There’s a myth that “good girls” don’t get abortions — that only certain “types” of girls need abortions. In the film, Veronica is straight-A and type-A. Everything in her life is planned out, but she needs an abortion because her boyfriend told her he was using a condom when he wasn’t. All types of women, all over the world, can find themselves needing an abortion. It happens, and it’s fine. The lack of shame in this movie is profound. Veronica is not a failure because she needs an abortion. She’s just a person who needs an abortion.
Unpregnant doesn’t obsess over morality. There’s a myth that a woman is supposed to drop to her knees and repent to the Lord if she chooses to have an abortion and while some may feel that way, nobody is supposed to, or should, feel any sort of way if they want to have an abortion. There is so much guilt and shame around abortions, which is unfair and not true to everyone’s experiences. Some women may ask their god for forgiveness or march towards their abortion with regret, while other women make the abortion appointment and pat themselves on the back for being so on top of it and not think another minute about it until they show up at the clinic. No matter how you feel about your abortion, it’s valid. Unfortunately, when we talk about abortion and when we see abortion onscreen, we often only see see the version where women are shamed for having one or shamed for not being more upset about their decision to have an abortion. Unpregnant does none of this.
At no point does Veronica question her decision and at no point in the film does she shame herself or allow herself to feel bad about her decision. Even when Veronica is kidnaped by pro-life lunatics, she doesn’t allow their indoctrination to sway her or cause her to have a crisis of faith. Veronica needs the abortion, point blank. Let her have it. Studies show that most women feel relief, and not regret, after their abortion and we need more abortion portrayals like this onscreen.
Veronica is in charge at all times. In the film, 17-year-old Veronica is in charge of her body, resolute in her choices, and is the master of her destiny. When she learns she is pregnant, Veronica gets on the internet, figures out how to have an abortion, and then does what she has to do to make it happen. Even when her boyfriend tries to convince her to have a child, she stands firm and listens to her body and makes the choice that is best for her. She is pregnant, not him. It’s so refreshing to see a strong and confident teenage girl making empowered decisions about her body. It’s not her parents’ decision, it’s not her boyfriend’s decision, it’s her body and her decision.
Unpregnant is also just a sweet and funny movie about friendship. Yes, it’s a comedy about abortion, but it’s also a coming-of-age story and a tale of two female friends coming to terms with why their friendship ended. It’s funny and romantic and raucous and ultimately, effing woke. It’s a great movie. Just watch it.