Have you ever thought to yourself, “Ya know, I really loved the 80’s classic Adventures in Babysitting, I just wish there were fewer kids and more abortions in it!” Well, have I got a movie for you.
HBO MAX’s recently released Unpregnant is just such a tale. 17-year-old Veronica Clarke, played by Haley Lu Richardson, has just learned she is pregnant while taking an at-home test in her high school bathroom. Someone walks in and she panics, throwing the test onto the floor and into the hands of her one-time best friend, Bailey Butler, played by Barbie Ferreira. After confirming that the test is in fact positive, Veronica swears Bailey to secrecy, and the two part ways.
Veronica is the typical overachiever archetype, and a baby would obviously mean she can’t go to college—I guess we aren’t actually here to smash the patriarchy and pave way for women to do both, instead we’d rather work within its confines. Because of that, she pretty much immediately decides to have an abortion (even though she can’t manage to say the actual word for another 47 minutes into the film).
She quickly discovers that without parental consent, which she evidently can’t get because her parents are Catholic or something, it’s going to take an entire road trip across multiple state lines to have the, um, er, “procedure.”
Veronica meets her boyfriend for dinner to tell him she’s pregnant, at which point, he gets down on one knee, and presents her with a ring. She asks why he already had a proposal at the ready and he explains that he actually noticed the condom had broken a month earlier but didn’t think she’d actually conceive. Still, he knew it was a possibility. Veronica is furious because had he told her she could have taken Plan B. She vehemently declines his proposal and goes over to Bailey’s house to ask if she can take her nearly a thousand miles to Albuquerque, New Mexico—the closest clinic where she can get, ya know, “the thing” done, without her parents knowing. Bailey agrees.
Slapstick insanity ensues. They hock the engagement ring at a pawnshop to pay for the… ya know… they discover Bailey has been driving them in a stolen car, they run from the cops, all the while rekindling their wayward friendship and discovering that Bailey’s estranged father also lives in Albuquerque.
At one point they end up at a carnival where it’s revealed that Bailey is gay and they proceed to scream their secrets from atop a twirling ride. “I LIKE GIRLS!” Bailey screams, to which Veronica responds, “I’M PREGNANT AND I’M HAVING AN ABORTION.” Finally. Nearly an hour into the movie she says the actual A-word… or rather, “shouts it.”
Evidently, a syrupy sweet couple overheard this proclamation and offers the girls a ride to New Mexico. As they’re driving they take a detour which Veronica questions. At this point I actually had to turn the movie off for a beat because I knew exactly where it was going. They couple were obviously “kooky” prolifers, there to foil Veronica’s plans. It’s bad enough that this movie totally glamorizes abortion (I’ll get to that in a minute), but of course they also have to make all of us prolifers seem completely insane. At one point, the girls escape from the couple’s house, steal their car, and a chase ensues, wherein the man drives a legit mobile sonogram bus in an attempt to hunt the girls down.
They get away on foot. More hi-jinx follow. They end up in a limousine blaring Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone,” which takes on a whole different meaning as they belt out the lyrics, “But since you been gone, I can breathe for the first time; I’m so movin’ on, yeah, yeah
Thanks to you, Now I get what I want . . .” It’s hard not to hear the irony in those words.
But then during a phone call Veronica betrays Bailey (because she thinks she’s asleep and can’t hear the awful things she was saying about her), and Bailey gets out of the limo and leaves. A bit later Veronica discovers that Bailey didn’t actually go home but rather to see her father, so she takes a detour to his flower shop. Bailey’s father is a supreme jerk, chastising her for not calling ahead, then refuses to even have dinner with her, at which point Veronica earns her friend back by telling him off. She yells, “You’re not just missing out on knowing your daughter— you’re missing out on knowing one of the most unique, passionate, incredible human beings on the face of the planet.”
An hour earlier, when pressed, Veronica had told the prolife woman, that she thought she might be pregnant with a girl herself, so it’s hard to hear her praise her friend and not feel that the same could be applied to her own unborn child.
After their road-trip “bonding” experience, they eventually make it to the clinic, where Veronica’s boyfriend had tracked them down and was already there waiting. He threatens to tell the whole school about her abortion (which he’s fine with at this point, by the way) if she breaks up with him. (Obviously the filmmakers couldn’t show a true representation of the men who oppose abortion and or want to protect an unborn child who’s equally theirs—they had to make the boyfriend into a typical Incel trope… overbearing, stalkery, the whole nine yards.) Veronica says he can go ahead and do it, but they’re done—then she goes into the clinic for the procedure.
And this, THIS is the part that made me furious. This is the point where it went from a dumb teen abortion movie to straight up propaganda. As Veronica waits for her appointment, she sees another young woman across from her in the waiting room. They exchange nervous smiles.
Veronica is taken back for the procedure, and since she’s chosen to be sedated, the filmmakers don’t have the reality of what happens during the abortion. And then, just like that, she’s back in the waiting room –hair still perfectly coiffed and make-up still in place. She sees the same young woman again, and this time they exchange relieved smiles.
I have heard stories from post-abortive friends about the “after care” rooms, and they’re anything but the beautifully lit, spa like spaces this film depicts. They all tell me that there are many women, usually wailing, their faces a mess as they come out of sedation. And I’ve witnessed those faces first hand while out on the sidewalk offering women abortion recovery healing as they leave the clinic. They always have tear stained faces and can barely hold their heads up.
I took to social media and asked if any of my post-abortive friends would mind sharing the reality of what having an abortion is really like, because obviously this film is just selling women a bill of goods.
Sarah St. Onge shared her heartbreaking and horrifying story with me…
“My post abortive experience was kind of awful. I woke up in a room of girls on gurneys, we were positioned in a semi-circle around a desk with a nurse. Everyone was either sleeping, coming out of the anesthesia, or quietly weeping – whether from grief or relief, I can’t say. The room was kind of like an ER without the curtains- you could reach out and touch the girl next to you, we were so close. Packed in. I couldn’t pee right away, no matter how much I tried, and the nurse threatened to catheterize me if I didn’t. I squeezed out a few drops and they let me go home. I found out later that absence of urinary function can be normal, due to the anesthesia, but it could also be a sign of trouble after an abortion. No one even checked to see which it was. My situation continued at home, where within a few days after my abortion I felt a big ‘plop’ fall out of my vagina. I looked down – they’d left a wad of surgical gauze inside of me. Over the following day and a half I also passed recognizable tissue. When I called Planned Parenthood, they just told me to come in for my follow up and keep taking the antibiotics. When I called my regular OBGYN, he had me come in and did a D&C. He was furious not just because they left fetal tissue behind, but because they were so nonchalant about me getting rechecked. While it was highly unlikely I would develop sepsis while on antibiotics, we don’t know what could have happened if I’d retained tissue past the point where I stopped taking them. Would it just be passed with my next period, or become infectious?”
So many other women reached out to me with similar tales. Doctors telling them to “shut up” or stop crying. Filthy facilities and recovery rooms filled with heartbroken women.
That sounds like anything but liberation.
How will women know exactly what choice they are making when Hollywood is glamorizing it in such a way? It’s one thing to support abortion access. It’s another to deceive women about what they will likely experience. Only upon making that choice will they realize Unpregnant was all a lie—movie magic completely devoid of the reality of abortion.