Gerard Baker discusses why Hollywood movie characters never have abortions.
One theory is that film producers, with their eye on the box office, don’t want to alienate large numbers of socially conservative Americans.
This strikes me as a bit flimsy. The big studios are happy to churn out films that promote wild conspiracy theories about evil cliques of conservatives who control the military-industrial complex. And you can hardly turn on your TV these days without coming across some “courageous” new drama about gay couples, which presumably causes loud harrumphing in households below the Mason-Dixon line.
No, there’s a much better and simpler explanation. The reality is that few people – whatever their political views – want to go and see a film where a woman chooses to have an abortion. We go to the cinema in large part to be inspired; to be reminded that, while we go through our real lives making messy moral compromises and falling way short of our ideals, there are some people, on screen at least, who do the good and moral and honourable thing. And confronted with the awful trauma of an unwanted pregnancy, almost all of the time choosing to have the baby is the good and moral and honourable thing to do.
It's not like abortion is never discussed in movies. The Cider House Rules makes performing abortions (something few doctors in the U.S. want to do) look positively noble. And back in the 1970s, in those heady days when abortion rates in the U.S. just kept climbing, you had so many characters having abortions that it looked like an unpaid ad for Planned Parenthood. Maude had an abortion at 45. Lucy Ewing on Dallas had an abortion after being raped. And even more recently, a character on Everwood had an abortion.
But the fact is, people are uncomfortable with abortion and don't really want to go watch movies about it. Try as the pro-abortion supporters might, they can't make abortion just another medical procedure or a blase event in life. But Hollywood can't admit that they don't have abortions in movies because people don't like abortion. As Baker says,
Of course admitting this would be problematic for the “pro-choice” crowd. It would involve admitting that the “choice” they vehemently defend is not really a moral choice at all. But rather that it is a choice between doing something – however understandable and forgivable in difficult circumstances – that is inherently expedient and selfish, and doing something that is inherently good and self-denying.
And that makes you think a bit deeper about the "choice" question. The defenders of abortion like to say that choosing to have a termination is an agonising decision – and certainly many women will attest to this. But they also say that abortion presents no deep moral problem because it does not represent the taking of a human life.
So if having an abortion is no more than the disposal of an unwanted clump of cells, why on earth should a woman feel so bad about it?
Why indeed? According to a Pandagon commenter, it's just a 20-minute procedure. But the fact is, most women do feel "bad" about having abortions. Otherwise, they wouldn't mind talking about it any more than they mind talking about having root canals or bunions fixed.
Baker is right. Even Hollywood acknowledges the inherent evil of abortion. That's why they don't make more movies about it.