Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Anti-abortion crap made to look cute

guest post by Kathryn Palmateer

Oh, how cute. What quirky style. Gosh, doesn’t little pregnant Juno look adorable? She makes pregnancy really work for youth doesn’t she? She’s intelligent and witty and doesn’t even bat an eye when informing her parents that she is pregnant and then later giving her child up for adoption. And then that adorable scene at the end, with that sweet little love song. She’s found innocence and youthfulness again.
Sure, sure, I understand. Its pro-choice. Pro-the other-choice. You know, women have the right to choose to do whatever they want with their bodies? They, like Juno, can choose to have a child and put it up for adoption or….choose to abort that little fetus with fingernails, as the sweet caring little Asian girl outside the abortion clinic would have it. “All babies want to be borned” she said. She is not your usual abortion protester. She cares about you and your unborn child.
Let’s start with a few things.
To be sure, we cannot understand the impact of a film such as this outside of the context of abortion politics in the United States. The current climate is one of anti-choice bigotry, even 35 years after the Roe v Wade decision, the 1973 decision in which the US Supreme Court determined that governments lacked the power to prohibit abortions. Over the past few years there have been repeated attempts to turn back women’s reproductive freedoms.
By March 2005, legislators in 9 states were crafting bills which would criminalize abortion. In South Dakota, a law was signed in 2006 to ban abortion, making it a crime for doctors to perform abortions with no exception in cases of rape or incest. The ban failed in a 2007 referendum. Also in 2006, the Mississippi House Public Health Committee voted to approve a ban on abortion, but the bill died after the House and Senate failed to agree on compromise legislation.
Several other states have enacted “trigger laws” such as Louisiana which would take effect
if Roe v. Wade is overturned, all of these have been aimed to ignite the battle over Roe v. Wade. President Bush has appointed over 60 judges to the Supreme Court and the federal courts of appeal that are hostile to Roe v. Wade. And yet, polls show that over 60% of likely voters want the 1973 decision upheld. Not surprisingly, Bush is pretty out of touch with the priorities of voters.
Not only are there widespread attacks on abortion laws, in many states, women have slim pickings when it comes to clinics. In the entire state of South Dakota, there is but one abortion clinic. The same is true for Mississippi. Many women are forced to cross state lines to have the procedure.
The messages in movies that we see every day are important influences on the way that we see the world. They aren’t simply stories that entertain us and then go on their merry way. They influence how we think, how we feel and perhaps more importantly, they give fuel to those whose ideas at times dominate the media and politics. Rick Santorum, Republican senator from Pennsylvania, writes about Juno, Knocked Up, and Waitress (along with two other films about unplanned pregnancies) in the Philadelphia Inquirer stating that “our culture….is finally waking up to the reality of life in the womb”. This is the same Rick Santorum who compared homosexuality to incest.
When a movie like Juno poses teenage pregnancy as cute and quirky, it has an immediate and direct impact on popular culture. Not only do young people see this as an option, but they see it as a “cool” option. Teens the age of Juno are not just passively taking in a story like this, just as adults aren’t either.
A film like Juno “mainstreamizes” anti-abortion politics. Because while Juno is the one making the choice (and not the state) it is anti-abortion at its core. Why does such a smart young woman fall for the ploy that a fetus is a person from conception? To Juno, the wretchedness of the abortion clinic demonizes the abortion choice leaving her with not much choice at all.
To my mind, when the truth about abortion is concealed and teen pregnancy and adoption romanticized as is done in the film, it is anti-choice.
What we need to be teaching young people is about safe-sex options. From there, we need to be teaching the truth about abortion and reproductive rights. So you can go ahead and tell me that this movie is pro-choice. But I don’t buy it. It may not be a direct condemnation of abortion. It is not easy and “connect-the-dots” programming targeting pro-life Christians. But in its ability to connect with mainstream audiences, it is definitely a step forward for the anti-abortion movement.
The right to abortion that women have gained through struggle is in a precarious position at best. And no aren’t-we-so-fuckin-clever movie is going to change that.
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