While waiting for the feature movie, Enchanted, with my family this week in Yonkers (long story, will tell another time), I watched trailer for the movie Juno--another film that centers around an unplanned pregnancy. And it got me thinking....
The latest figures from the Guttmacher Institute find that in America, about one in five pregnancies end in abortion. Yet, as Carrie Rickey, film critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, just noted, in recent American movies, every unplanned pregnancy is carried to term. What gives? Writes Rickey, turning to my number 1 favorite sociologist for a quote,
From Knocked Up to Waitress to Juno, opening Dec. 14, abortion is The Great Unmentionable, euphemized as "shmashmortion" (Knocked Up), "we don't perform, uh, -" (Waitress), and "nipped it in the bud" (Juno), comedies in which pregnancy is the situation. Abortion is likewise obliquely referenced, if actually considered, in the drama Bella, now in theaters. "It's as if there's an 'every conception deserves delivery' policy being observed," says Virginia Rutter, senior scholar at the Council on Contemporary Families, a Chicago-based organization of academics and public health professionals.
You said it, Rutter. And then, this nice bit from my favorite historian, Stephanie Coontz:
Perhaps when abortion is illegal, it makes a better story for filmmakers, says Stephanie Coontz, a family historian and author of Marriage, a History, in describing the motivating conflict behind Cider House, Vera Drake, and Four Months. "When you don't have powerful stories about women whose lives have been derailed by unplanned pregnancy," Coontz says, "there will be a tendency to sweep the subject of abortion under the rug." Historically, she notes, abortions were common among respectable married women in the 19th century and were easier to obtain in the 1930s than in the 1950s.
How much do I love it when such smartie pants scholars are actually quoted in the press?! I'm looking forward to seeing both Stephanie and Virginia at the May 2008 Council on Contemporary Families conference in Chicago...but I don't think I'll be running to Juno anytime soon.