I share a parking lot with a
Catholic school. All
during the school year, I park next to cars with bumper stickers that proclaim
things like “It’s not a choice, it’s a life.”
And “God is pro-life.”
And even “abortion is murder.”
Not all of us Presbyterians share
these sentiments, of course.
We are, judging by our General Assembly
pronouncements, anyway, reluctant pro-choicers.
We say we don’t condone abortion as a form of
belated birth control, and that the decision should never be taken lightly.
But, especially in the cases of rape and incest,
the choice needs to be available, without undue hassle.
My father-in-law, a retired physician, has always
been vigorously pro-choice because of his internship in the operating room,
where he witnessed what happens if abortion isn’t legal:
women cutting themselves with coat hangers.
And back when I was a very young Pastor, I was
asked to counsel a Mom with her 14-year-old daughter, who was gang-raped in a
barn, and though abortion was illegal in that State at that time, I had no
problem then counseling to seek that procedure elsewhere.
Now that I’m a much older Pastor, I’m not
sure I would counsel anything differently.
Though what’s changed since then is the overall
cultural level of guilt, shame, and community stigma surrounding teenage
There’s nothing funny about any
of it, but somehow the film “Obvious Child” turns abortion into a comedy.
Or rather, it takes a funny, charming young
woman, Donna Stern (Jenny Slate), and follows her into this apparent moral
quagmire with a minimum of seriousness.
This film is disarmingly frank
about many things, including female body parts, and young adult sexuality.
It revels in “overshare,” or “too much
information” about intimate personal details.
Its dialogue is consistently and proudly raunchy.
But a stand-up comedy routine about deciding to
have an abortion? Yeah,
that and all the racial/gender caricatures and there’s enough here to offend
almost everyone. They
even try mixing in a little “romantic comedy” formula, with the guy, Max
(Jake Lacy) bringing flowers, and the girl, Donna, confiding to her best
friend, Nellie (Gabby Hoffman) about the unexpected pregnancy that she somehow
can’t bring herself to reveal to Max.
But the “romance” part is definitely
is really just about a one-night stand with unplanned consequences.
Of course part of the controversy
of the whole abortion debate is, “Who has a right to weigh in here?”
Is it the sole responsibility of the pregnant
woman (definitely the point of view of this film)?
What about the father? What about other family
members? (And how does it change the dynamics if they’re no longer
about religion? (Here,
they just make fun of their Jewishness and figure they’ve waved at religion
about the political aspect, with laws governing what can be done in certain
trimesters, and at certain ages, and what counsel must be received by the
Well, at one level, it’s brave
to approach such an explosive topic as this so cavalierly, as a way of also
making a political statement.
But the absence of any moral consideration will
offput most. As
for old-fashioned guilt, shame, and community stigma?
Forget about it.
Somehow the procedure is reduced to the level of
extracting a mole, which would greatly offend all the teachers in my shared
parking lot. And
maybe a few other people, as well.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,