Choosing Life

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This is my last Knocked Up post, I swear (must ... finish ... actual ... review), but I couldn't let this Dana Stevens line pass:

Allow me to briefly divagate here on the nonexistence of abortion as an option in Knocked Up. This omission smells of the focus group, and it's a disappointment in a movie that otherwise prides itself on its unsentimental honesty about the realities of unplanned parenthood. It's just not believable that, in Alison and Ben's upper-middle-class, secular L.A. milieu, abortion would not be matter-of-factly discussed as a possibility in the case of a pregnancy this accidental. If she doesn't want one, great—obviously, there'd be no movie if she did—but let's hear about why not. Otherwise, her character becomes a cipher, a foil for Ben's epiphanies about growing up, without being allowed any epiphanies of her own. The biggest unanswered question about Heigl's character is one the movie never tiptoes near—why does she decide to keep the baby?

Now Stevens is right that a typical young, upwardly-mobile, apparently-secular female professional who gets pregnant from a one-night stand with a loserish guy is a prime candidate to get an abortion, and the Knocked Up scenario is, in that regard, sociologically unlikely. But it's simply not true that the movie tiptoes around the abortion issue, or makes it seem like the option doesn't exist: There are two conversations in which first the hero and then the heroine are explicitly urged to get an abortion, Seth Rogen's Ben by one of his slacker housemates and Katherine Heigl's Alison by her mother. And it's very clear, in the context of the film's script, why Katherine decides to keep the baby - because abortion is a really horrible thing to do, and only a buffoon (Ben's friend) or a hissable villain (Alison's Mom, who tells her to wait till she's ready to have a "real baby") would tell someone to get one. I have no idea where Judd Apatow stands on the politics of abortion - if I had to guess, I'd say he's probably a Saletan-style "it's bad, but it has to be legal" type - but as far as the morality of the procedure goes, Knocked Up is almost naively pro-life: Of course Alison decided to "keep" the baby, the script suggests, because killing it would be terribly and obviously wrong, and she's not a bad person. This may be sociologically unrealistic, but it's not a "let's not offend the audience" cop-out.

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Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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