The A-Word

Erica Kane had one on All My Children back in the '70s, although it was for the sake of her modeling career and she was punished with septicemia afterward, so we probably weren't supposed to be supportive. Diane Keaton had one in The Godfather: Part II, although it was only to punish Al Pacino, so you couldn't necessarily call it humane. Maude had one, too, although, please, she was 47 and Bea Arthur. None of the fertile Friends ever had one, because it meant far bigger ratings to ignore the fact that many bright, witty, attractive women sleeping with their neighbors in New York have them without ruining their movie deals. Most everybody else who even considers one either conveniently falls down the stairs or goes ahead with it and spends the rest of her future fulfilling a wretched destiny.

It's 2004, and you can put abortion right up there with physical affection between men as something you'll never see treated favorably in popular American entertainment. You can still watch a gal get buzzed in two by a chain-saw-wielding cannibal—hell, you can remake that experience, if you like—but you can't watch a woman make a conscious, complicated, informed decision to handle her own body as she sees fit. Why is it that we're still so afraid of a choice made every day by perfectly lovely people who later go on to lives unmarked by shame or infamy?

I've been thinking about the dreaded A-word ever since sitting through the movie Saved!, an irreverent satire in which young Mary (Jena Malone), a senior at an aggressively Christian high school, gets knocked up by her closeted gay boyfriend and has to re-evaluate her belief system. Is it just me, or would you think that a teenager who gets knocked up by her closeted gay boyfriend might re-evaluate her belief system to the point of getting an abortion? And wouldn't you also think that a teenager who gets knocked up by her closeted gay boyfriend in an irreverent movie satire might find her way to Planned Parenthood?

No dice, sinner: Saved! not only envisions Mary following through on her not-so-immaculate conception, but it climaxes, as it were, in a decidedly nonsatirical trip to the prom with the shaggy-haired cutie from Almost Famous (cuz you know how down cute boys are with pregnant Christian teenagers). This is the film that several critics who should know better are giving the thumbs up? That trenchant Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called "acutely perceptive"? Where did these people grow up?

The last time I can recall a pregnant teenager having an abortion in a movie and remaining the heroine was Jennifer Jason Leigh in 1982's Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Leigh was only portraying the kind of sweet, sexually active nymph a lot of us recognized from life, yet her realistic dilemma caused Roger Ebert, Mr. Thumbs Up himself, to write a review damning what looked more like high school than anything up until TV's Freaks & Geeks. And, ironically, Cameron Crowe, who wrote the honest screenplay for Fast Times, went on to make Singles—a movie in which a convenient car accident solves the quandary of pregnant, unmarried Kyra Sedgwick. So much for Godard's stuff about truth at 24 frames per second, eh?

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