Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Saint Vera, the abortionist

I finally saw the movie Vera Drake yesterday. For those of you who don't know about the movie, it concerns a poor women in 1950s London who performs abortions, and who is eventually arrested for doing so. The rest of this post is a spoiler so, if you are still going to see the movie, don't read it. [Disclaimer: I am reluctantly pro-choice. I think abortion is a lousy (not to say immoral) form of birth control, but I also believe that there are circumstances in which abortion is appropriate or warranted, and would be loath to see all doors closed.] The movie is very didactic, with everything presented in almost ludicrous extremes. Vera, as this post title indicates, is an utterly saintly woman. She's got a "heart of gold," as one character says; "she's a diamond," says another. She takes care of rich and poor alike, is never grumpy, is her family's life force, and performs the abortions for free "to help poor girls." The women getting abortions are all desperately in need of them -- a mother of seven children, a rape victim, an isolated immigrant, a wife who had an affair while her husband was in Korea, etc. The only teenager who gets an abortion does so with her mother's connivance. Really the only surprise in the movie, considering the point it was trying to make, was how respectfully the movie portrays the police. They could have been shown as louts, but they weren't; instead, they were kind and sensitive. What really struck me about the movie, though, was what a useless argument This movie is for the reality in the West of abortion nowadays. NOW and NARAL rely heavily on the concerns of women prior to the sexual revolution to justify their continued belief that abortion is one choice amongst many, and not a special choice. This is an anarchronistic argument, since we simply don't live in the 1950s anymore. In 2005, adult women who are unmarried and pregnant don't get sent to convents or abusive homes in the backwoods, nor are they and their children shunned, a la the Scarlet Letter. Instead, they have baby showers thrown for them by their friends and colleagues. In other words, at least for adults, the stigma is gone -- and since we are herd animals, the stigma of an unwanted pregnancy used to be an appalling burden. Teenagers still present a problem -- while their peers may not view them as pariahs if they get pregnant, I don't think any one of us questions that it is an appalling burden for a teenager to admit to her parents that she is pregnant. That doesn't mean, though, that abortion should be part of the smogasbord of birth control options we offer teenagers. Indeed, it seems to me it means that we, as a culture and as parents, should work even harder to head off teen pregnancies, starting with abstinence education. (To digress, considering that most parents "get this," it's not surprising that parents are increasingly voting with the conservatives. Conservatives seem to hold out the promise of stemming the Madison Avenue/Hollywood message that sex is okay for everyone at practically any age. Unfortunately, despite 5 years of a conservative presidency, that promise doesn't seem to have been fulfilled.) Overall, then, I see Vera Drake as a failed movie, both because it was dull, as didactic movies often are, and because it misplaced its message. There are currently valid arguments both for and against abortion, but they are not arguments based on the societal pressures in 1950s London. And for Hollywood and the liberal media to fawn all over this movie as they did, because of the message it conveys, strikes me as demonstrating yet again how out of touch liberal arguments are with the modern world.