Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of this column misidentified the executive in charge of the network streaming “Unpregnant” and misidentified the network on which it will be released.
HBO Max is airing a comedy about abortion. And we wish that was a joke.
In a recently released interview about the film, “Unpregnant” (possibly a shot at the pro-life film “Unplanned”?), one of the screenplay writers said she wanted to “write an abortion road trip story [to] bring some humor and make people more comfortable with the subject of abortion.”
“If we could pull it off,” the other screenplay writer added, “it would be really something special.”
Well, they did pull it off, and it will run on HBO Max this September.
Abortion is not hilarious
The plot of “Unpregnant” centers on a teenage girl who finds herself unexpectedly with child. Rather than turn to her “Jesus Freak” Catholic parents for help, she decides on her own to obtain an abortion. But, there’s a catch. The abortion laws in her state make that all but impossible. So, she enlists a friend to accompany her on the 1,000-mile journey to the nearest abortion clinic. Their escapades on the road make up the bulk of the movie, with the film documenting the “hysterical” trials and tribulations of two teenagers traveling to end the life of a baby.
When we first saw the trailer for “Unpregnant,” we both were shocked. Even those who support abortion have generally not treated it as a laughing matter. Most people have had the moral decency to recognize the seriousness of the decision for the woman, if not for the unborn child. “Safe, legal, and rare” was the pro-abortion rallying cry. Not “safe, legal, and hilarious.”
Until now. And one of the screenwriters explained why that is in the same interview.
“This very easily could be a horror story,” she said, “but laughter is a way of taking away fear and shame.”
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In other words, the makers of this film want us to forget about the human tragedy at the heart of abortion. They want to mask it with laughter and wacky hijinks, so we don’t see the heartbreak, tears, grief and guilt that plague so many post-abortive women, not to mention the loss of innocent life that accompanies every abortion.
For the people behind this film and many people within the pro-abortion movement, “safe, legal, and rare” is no longer the goal. The new goal is “safe, legal, and no big deal.” They don’t want abortion to be a morally serious issue. They want it to have the moral weight of a dental filling.
What Christians should do in response
As Christians, we can’t just take this in stride. Human life matters. Human dignity matters. And Hollywood trying to undermine the sanctity of life with cheap comedic tricks should turn our stomachs. None of us would tolerate a movie that used laughter to try to erase the horror of racism or anti-Semitism. And we can’t tolerate this movie either.
So, what do we do?
First, pray. Not just generically, but specifically — for the screenplay writers and producers behind “Unpregnant”; for the young women involved in the filming of the movie; for all the people who have backed it financially or are helping market the film. Pray for all of them. Ask Jesus to have mercy on them and change their hearts. Pray also for all who watch this movie. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to them just how horrible its goals are. Above all, pray for every teenage girl and every woman who feels she has no choice but an abortion. Pray that no woman has to find out the hard way that abortion is no laughing matter.
After you pray, act. Do something concrete to help your local crisis pregnancy center, maternity home or homeless shelter. Invite a single mom to dinner or offer to babysit her kids from time to time. Ask around and find out if there’s a woman in your parish or community who needs help navigating the difficulties of an unexpected pregnancy. In some way, big or small, be the friend a woman in crisis needs.
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Lastly, if you have a subscription to HBO or HBO Max, cancel it. Then, email the chief executive of Warner Bros., Ann Sarnoff, and tell her why you are cancelling (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Laughter is good. It can be food for the soul. Likewise, seeing the humor in a situation can keep us sane. But there is no humor to see in abortion, only sorrow. And to laugh in the face of such a loss — of life, of motherhood, of hope — isn’t keeping our sanity; it’s losing our humanity.
Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, is the president of Franciscan University of Steubenville. Maureen (Malloy) Ferguson, a 1992 alumna of Franciscan University, is a senior fellow of The Catholic Association and co-host of EWTN’s radio show and podcast “Conversations With Consequences.”