‘Unpregnant’ shows Why We can’t stop Fighting for Abortion Rights

HBO Max’s new comedy conveys how far women have to go to have a choice.

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When a Columbia high schooler discovers she is pregnant, she learns there is no way to get an abortion in Missouri without parental consent. A new comedy on HBO Max, “Unpregnant” continues the dialogue that Missouri law on abortion is restrictive. The film is more than message-pushing or a female buddy film: it is a loud reminder that, once again, the system has failed us.

Directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg and based on the novel by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan, “Unpregnant” follows Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson) and Bailey (“Euphoria’s” Barbie Ferreira) as they navigate the perils of the road to an Albuquerque, N.M., abortion clinic and rekindle a broken friendship. Comedy may be an unusual tool for discussing abortion, but the film is meant to provide a younger audience with digestible information about terminating a pregnancy.

On Sept. 1, Missouri passed new restrictions on abortions mandating young women under the age of eighteen must have parental consent. For women, this disregards their personal privacy and personal authority. On top of that, The Affordable Care Act provides insurance only in circumstances that are considered life endangerment. Also the state mandates women undergo a minimum 72 hours of counseling that is tailored to discourage their decision.

In “Unpregnant,” the film depicts Missouri’s abortion restrictions as a colossal barrier for pregnant Veronica, who is unable to confide in her mega-religious parents. Veronica, instead, does what any high school Valedictorian would do: she develops a plan. Searching for money in her bedroom drawer while mapping out her road trip to Albuquerque, Veronica confides in her quirky ex-best friend. Together, the ladies are propelled into a wild adventure in Bailey’s 1977 Pontiac Firebird where they do everything from fist-pump to 2000s music and speed away from pro-life campaigners.

While on the road, their series of unfortunate yet humorous obstacles are a larger nod to how receiving an abortion should not be this hard. When their car is impounded, they meet a mysterious nice man who offers to drive them in his beat up limousine. Okay, some of the plot is entirely silly and overdone. Bailey and Veronica’s far-fetched adventures are purely for comedic relief and meant to engage someone so they can understand barriers restricting abortions.

Women shouldn’t have to disclose to their families about unwanted pregnancies. They shouldn’t have to worry about financial stability when obtaining an abortion either. Missouri’s restrictions are meant to make it harder for women to receive abortions, but their livelihood, security and privacy are completely forsaken.

In the film, Veronica emphasizes that she wants a future for herself. She is looking at Ivy League schools and her focus is career minded. Having a baby is not in the books for her right now. Veronica and Bailey discover more about themselves and their friendship, too. Bailey’s edginess is a great compliment to straightlaced Veronica, but she could be considered a main character herself. Bailey brings bravery and charisma to the film in coming out to her best friend about her sexuality.

The central message is not lost by the comedic elements of the film. Instead, the purpose is to show that abortion, while serious, is neither dangerous nor painful. A pivotal moment is when Veronica shares how she never doubted if she made the right choice.

The premise focuses on the experiences of women and that’s why it’s imperative we continue to keep watching films like “Unpregnant.” It’s important we continue fighting for women’s rights to have control over our bodies.

Edited by George Frey | gfrey@themaneater.com

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