About a year ago, I wrote an article titled “I’m Pro-Life and Read a Book about Seeking An Abortion, Here’s What I Learned.” You can read that book review, but the long and short of it was that it was an alright YA book about a high-achieving teen who seeks out an abortion in another state after ending up pregnant with an incompetent boyfriend and Christian parents. Veronica teams up with her “weird” ex-best friend Bailey to drive from Missouri to New Mexico. Antics ensue, she gets her abortion, and she learns to grow up along the way in a couple different ways.
Now, a year later, the movie version of this story just premiered on HBO Max. Don’t worry, I watched it too! And I have some…thoughts.
Let me be honest with you first. While I’m a pro-life woman, I’m also pro-birth control, pro-good sex education and pro-women’s empowerment, and I like the typical teen movie that highlights friendship and coming of age tales. So,I actually enjoyed aspects of this movie well-enough. It’s well-made and the main actresses are great. In fact, I think that people would enjoy it a lot if they knew if it was more of a buddy road trip movie than about an abortion.
Conservatives, don’t go out and try to “cancel” this movie because you think it “glorifies” abortion. Sure, the protagonist says she feels relieved after her abortion, but if you watch the entire movie, you’ll understand that she’s been setting up to feel that way, because there are a lot of reasons women have abortions. Veronica Clarke is one of the most “ideal” candidates because this movie wants you to connect with her. But being pro-life isn’t just about being around pro-life people. You need to know what the other side is arguing for and why they are arguing what they are arguing.
The unfortunate part of this movie, though, is that it leans into the “perfect” abortion story. It doesn’t allow for the real world to creep in. Veronica Clarke is the “exact person” who gets an abortion, and keeps it secret, according to her friend Bailey. As someone who lives in the real world, I wish we could see stories about the “imperfect” abortion story to better understand why abortion happens.
Like in the book, the movie wants you to want Veronica to succeed because the deck is stacked in her favor. She’s the kind of person that “should” have an abortion to have her best, Ivy League life, right? She’s not poor, or a person of color, or destined to stay in her hometown forever. And she’s a pretty white-passing, smart, driven young woman with a bright future and a kooky, lame boyfriend. She’s the kind of “All-American” girl the film wants you to root for. I can’t help but think of just how different the movie would be, and how it would be received or not received by the left, if it was her friend Bailey getting the abortion instead.
When Veronica gets her abortion, the movie feels complete, in that way, even though it’s only the last 20 minutes of the movie. While the abortion was the end-goal, the journey was far more about her relationship with Bailey and them growing back together as friends than anything else.
The movie does make a few significant changes from the book that, if you read my original review, you’ll know I struggled with. For one, the crazy pro-life stripper from the book becomes a white, middle-class uber-Christian pro-life couple who drive a “pregnancy crisis center” van and who the main characters refer to as “Mike and Karen Pence” in a moment of maybe too on-the-nose humor. It also really highlights the friendship growth between Veronica and Bailey. There’s also an added “pregnancy test conspiracy” at school where Veronica’s popular friends are trying to find out who took the test. This implied a kind of gossip, rumor-mill situation that reminded me a lot of high school in some ways.
Overall, I do think pro-life people should watch this movie, but with a grain of salt. We can learn a lot about the things pro-choice people are thinking about when they argue for abortion rights. We can learn a lot about how we can support young women to prevent abortions–birth control, red flags in boyfriends, etc. And we can learn to be empathetic to people who have had abortions in the past.
The mother’s final words really stuck with me in this film. She’s a Christian woman and pro-life. Veronica hides her situation from her until the very end, but the mother says, “I love you so much more than all of that.” That’s what we need to practice–empathy and compassion and love, pro-life or not.