What struck me most during my four-and-a-half hours in the abortion clinic was the variety of women who were there. It wasn’t full of pregnant teens that looked strikingly similar to Ellen Page in Juno. While there were a few of those, there were also 30-year-olds with designer handbags and rocks on their ring finger and 20-something recent college grads who looked like they’d reluctantly taken a day off from their swanky downtown jobs.
I was there to support a friend, a strange role in a place where, after delivering your charge to the check-in desk, an escort has nothing to do but read yellowing copies of Women’s Health. But there I was, alternating between articles on how to lose flab by the Fourth of July while slowing sinking into an armchair that thousands of anxious women’s bodies had perched on, the arms dimpled from finger nails that found a grip in it’s blood red upholstery.
I hadn’t thought much about my short and (for me) uneventful time in the midtown abortion clinic until I went to see The Obvious Child, a movie that tackles abortion with a dash of humor. It’s fabulous, and it made me think again about what I would have done if it had been me who was pregnant. If, instead of sinking into that chair and lazily flipping through sex tips, I’d been clenching its arms.
I still have no idea.
I am utterly and entirely unsure, which I find terrifying. Despite studying medical ethics in college, I’m not sure when a fetus should be treated as legally human, and I don’t know how I would feel about the idea of removing something that was growing inside of me. Treating it as if it were a pernicious weed, rather than a bundle of cells with at least the potential of becoming a living and breathing child.
At the same time, I would never consider taking away a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. To me, that is a decision that only one person is qualified to make it, the woman whose body is involved.
Donna Stern, the would-be heroine of The Obvious Child played by Jenny Slate, never ponders whether an abortion is the right decision, and I appreciate that greatly. She knows what she wants, she asks for it, and she follows through. She is vulnerable and the process isn’t portrayed as easy, but she also doesn’t ask those around her to validate her decision. She might ask a friend what the procedure is like, but not whether she should do it.
The message in the film, that a woman can make the choice on her own and stick to it, that her friends and family can be supportive even if they don’t entirely agree, and that you’re life doesn’t end when you hit a bump in road, or in this case your belly, is undeniably important.
After her procedure, I took my friend back home, stopping at a deli on the way for a sandwich (for her) and some Cheez-its (for me). We were quiet, there wasn’t much to say, but we held hands. She squeezed mine tightly as we pulled up to her building, clenching hard as if she couldn’t let go, even if she wanted to. I told her she didn’t have to.