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There is a common trope about abortion in movies, where the main characters either completely disregard abortion as a possibility, mention it and never go through with it (e.g. Juno) or do it and then regret it.

But has this trope ever been completely averted? To clarify the conditions:

  • A character must go through an abortion
  • The abortion is portrayed without implying anything is morally wrong about the procedure
  • The character never regrets it
  • The character is not shown to be 'evil' or 'bad'
  • The scene is in a live action movie or TV show
  • Everything is played straight - it's not a dark comedy or a 'what if' situation or an alien having the abortion, etc
  • The show is fictional rather than a documentary or a news report

The linked TV Tropes page doesn't list any such examples.

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    I suspect that the only way this would happen is if abortion were seen as a positive thing. Otherwise if it's a neutral thing, it would be hard to make it add anything to the narrative. I mean, you don't see anybody going to the doctor's office for a routine checkup unless it reveals something bad or otherwise provides new information for the plot. – Thunderforge Aug 29 '17 at 16:11
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    I'm not sure how ending a pregnancy can be seen as a reason to party. It's never a good thing, even to people who are pro-abortion. – Johnny Bones Aug 29 '17 at 16:17
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    @JohnnyBones even so, lots of movies show that various things are good despite them being bad in real life. It's all fiction in the end. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Aug 29 '17 at 16:27
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    There isn't much reason to include an abortion plotline without it contributing drama or comedy in some way. Would you count something like the Battlestar Galactica episode in which a woman seeks asylum from her home community which does consider abortion morally "obscene" but all the main and supporting characters either think she should be able to have the procedure done if she wants or have no opinion? They do end up banning abortion for practical reasons, so probably a bad example but is the 2nd condition violated if only a couple extras think it's morally wrong? – EldritchWarlord Aug 29 '17 at 21:13
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    @EldritchWarlord I'd say all the examples where there is a huge debate about the procedure don't count as it implies there is a negative moral aspect to it, which is also why Maude is a bad example. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Aug 29 '17 at 21:17

11 Answers 11

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Obvious Child

A somewhat recent romantic comedy has actually been lauded for its treatment of this subject: Obvious Child from 2014 starring comedian Jenny Slate. From a Slate article:

In the new movie Obvious Child, twentysomething stand-up comic Donna gets pregnant after a drunken one-night stand, loses her job, attempts to schedule an abortion at her local Planned Parenthood clinic, and—cherry on top—discovers that the only available appointment is on Feb. 14. Turns out, it’s the perfect day: This is a romantic comedy where the girl gets an abortion and gets the guy. Along the way, she doesn’t even have a change of heart, contract a nasty infection, or succumb to a tragic death. That makes Obvious Child a run-of-the-mill story for a woman in America but an exceedingly rare tale for a woman on film.

[...]

Obvious Child executes [a] remarkable feat. While other films that touch on abortion conspire to neutralize a woman's choice, or else punish her for it, Obvious Child never dwells on Donna’s decision. (This is no “Donna’s Dilemma.”) Instead, it plays with all the other choices inherent in the abortion decision—like how much to involve the man in the choice, how to tell your mom, and how to talk about it all publicly—and it does it all with humor and poignancy without getting glib.

The article details the contrasting, stark depiction of the subject in previous works and its causes, but also contains another somewhat positive portrayal: A plot from the sitcom Maude in 1972:

Until Obvious Child, the best, most honest portrayal of abortion on screen aired in 1972 (after the procedure was legalized in New York, but before Roe took it nationwide), when Maude featured a two-episode abortion plotline titled “Maude’s Dilemma,” in which 47-year-old Maude becomes unexpectedly pregnant and spends a full television hour brashly debating every aspect of her choice with friends and family—including her age, her financial situation, her temperament, her husband’s feelings, and her daughter’s concerns. She ultimately chooses abortion, but not before the show wrings all possible feminist statements and dark laughs from the predicament.

Other notable (and recent) examples of this trope’s subversion

  • Cristina’s decision to have an abortion on Grey’s Anatomy in season 8. From the LA Times:

    Cristina is not a teenager, or a rape or an incest victim. She is not poor with eight kids and an abusive husband or suffering from mental illness. She does not have a rare disease that makes pregnancy a physical risk. Unlike Maude, she isn't an "older" woman with mid-life concerns. Cristina is married, healthy, financially stable and of prime childbearing years. She chose to have an abortion because she did not want to have a child. [...] [She] did not seem particularly agonized. She seemed, as she said she was, scared and sad, but she knew that she did not want to have a baby.

  • Jane’s mother’s decision to have it on Jane the Virgin in season 3. From Vanity Fair:

    Jane [the Virgin] handled the subject with a rare attitude: empathetic, but casual. Viewers don’t really watch Xiomara grapple and agonize over the decision, or even see her go to the clinic. In the time gap between the season premiere and episode two, Xiomara has an abortion off-screen. Instead of focusing on the decision itself, the episode focuses on how her family reacts—and ultimately overcomes their different perspectives.

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In S1E8 of GLOW (Netflix 2017), Ruth has an abortion. There is some emotion, of course, but it turns into a sweet bonding experience between Ruth and the gruff director, Sam. The show doesn't paint it as morally wrong, Ruth isn't overwhelmed with regret, and she's not portrayed as evil or bad. It's not even mentioned in the final two episodes of the season.

  • Isn't GLOW a docu-drama? It's based on real events, isn't it? Not sure if that runs afoul of the OP's "not a documentary" rule, since it's not strictly a documentary. – user1118321 Aug 30 '17 at 4:34
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    @user1118321 GLOW is a fictionalization loosely based on the people who created the actual wrestling show. There are some parallel issues and characters partly based on real people and events, but they are reinvented pretty heavily. It's definitely not a documentary, which you can see by watching a documentary on GLOW itself. – Dronz Aug 30 '17 at 4:43
  • OK, fair enough. It does look like it's entertaining! – user1118321 Aug 30 '17 at 4:51
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    The creators of GLOW have actually said they purposely showed abortion as a clinical procedure. This article has some interesting stuff from Alison Brie about her character's thought and emotions on the subject (spoilers, watch the series first; it's really good and only 10 ~half-hour episodes.) – Peter Cordes Aug 31 '17 at 17:35
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Dirty Dancing

The character Penny gets an illegal abortion from a shady doctor. Legal abortions are either banned in her state or too expensive for her to afford as she has to borrow $250 from Baby for the illegal procedure.

Baby's father, Dr Houseman, has to step in to save Penny's life on his daughters request after it's botched.

At no point is Penny judged, positively or negatively, for her choice to have an abortion. No one questions her choice. Afterwards Dr Houseman treats her with compassion, giving her free care and assuring her she'll still be able to have children later if she chooses.

She also doesn't express regrets, even though the illegal procedure proved unsafe.

The rest of the film is based around Baby's desire to support Penny's decision to have an abortion, covering her dance performance so she can get the procedure and recover.

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    That's still a negative connotation since the abortion went wrong, "punishing" the woman for her choice. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Aug 30 '17 at 13:29
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    @JonathanReez I've never seen it that way as it went wrong due to her inability to access a safe abortion through legal healthcare, not due to her choice to pursue an abortion. I see it more as advocating for making safe abortions more accessible for women of all classes. I think if the movie had meant to depict it as punishment they would have backed that point up, where as none of the characters portray it that way. – Amicable Aug 30 '17 at 13:35
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    @JonathanReez, the movie was set in the 1960s, the pre-Roe-v-Wade days, so an illegal abortion would have been the only kind of abortion available then. – Kyralessa Sep 22 '17 at 13:51
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Possibly The Cider House Rules from 1999 with Michael Caine as a Dr. Larch, Tobey Maguire as Homer Wells, Charlize Theron as Candy Kendall, and Erykah Badu as Rose Rose.

  • Dr. Larch, director of an orphanage, provides abortions and helps Homer Wells become a physician himself.
  • Homer Wells, one of the orphans himself, who at first doesn't want to provide abortions, but does so for Rose. In addition, he has an affair with Candy. After Dr. Larch passes away, he returns to the orphanage as its new director.
  • Candy Kendall comes to Dr. Larch for an abortion and is Homer's love interest.
  • As noted above, Rose is a rape survivor and gets an abortion.

Neither of those characters is "evil" or "bad", quite on the contrary.

Edit

A few snippets from contemporaneous reviews:

[...] the film’s controversial pro-choice stance on abortion.

(David Rooney, Variety, 1999.09.07)

But the film implies even more forcefully that in order for our lives to mean anything at all, we sometimes have to play God, take charge and do what we believe is right.

(Stephen Holden, The New York Times, 1999.12.10)

The Cider House Rules manages to give the debate a reasonably balanced perspective, [...].

(James Berardinelli, reelreviews)

  • If I remember correctly, she was rapped by a family member. That movie's a good example. – userLTK Aug 29 '17 at 20:30
  • Yes, she was raped by her father. – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Aug 30 '17 at 6:33
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On Season 2 of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2016), the character of Paula (a paralegal at the start of the show, and the best friend of main character Rebecca) becomes pregnant just after she decides to return to school to get a law degree.

Paula's decision to have an abortion is treated pretty matter-of-factly; she discusses it with her husband, and the procedure itself happens off-screen. There is a small amount of hand-wringing in her decision, but this is mainly done to illustrate the development of Paula's relationship with Rebecca, particularly Rebecca's self-centeredness. At the beginning of Season 2, Paula is going through some significant life changes and choices, and the fact that she doesn't feel able to open up to her best friend (Rebecca) about them is a sign of a growing estrangement between them that is one of the season's major arcs.

(Crazy Ex-Girlfriend qualifies as a dark comedy in several other ways, but the abortion itself is never part of this comedy.)

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    This nails all of the op's desiderata. It is portrayed as a difficult and serious choice, but there is no hint that Paula or her husband have made a mistake, that think they have made a mistake, or that they regret the decision. – MJD Aug 29 '17 at 20:09
  • It's a dark comedy and a musical, so it's not really a straight example. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Aug 30 '17 at 6:26
  • Also the only TV/film portrayal I can think of where the character just sorta chills out in her house for the rest of the day to recover from the procedure physically. – Alex P Aug 30 '17 at 23:27
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The Lily Tomlin movie Grandma is about a young girl who goes to her grandmother to get $600 needed for an abortion. They go to old friends and in some cases enemies to try and scrape together the money. They don't really talk about the morality of the decision. It's just the thing that drives the plot. They don't appear to regret it afterwards, though admittedly, the movie only lasts 1 day in the characters lives.

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On Six Feet Under, Claire Fisher (Lauren Ambrose) has an abortion and it is presented as a distressing and uncomfortable situation for her, but not morally wrong. As with most characters on the show, she is a complex and multifaceted individual who is neither perfect nor evil. Although the show itself is a dark comedy, the scenes surrounding this event are presented straight and sensitive to the topic. The only negative "consequence" is that the man who impregnated her berates her for not telling him sooner.

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I can't find a video of it, but a couple characters soberly discuss getting an abortion in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The scene in question starts right at the end of this clip (it's what the offscreen voice wants to talk about):

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In Doctor Foster, a woman has an abortion and no character judges her for the decision. The drama is centered around the fact that the father is the husband of the main character, and that he doesn't know she's pregnant but the main character does.

She is portrayed as 'bad', but only because she is sleeping with a married man, not because she wants an abortion.

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In the movie Prometheus, one of the female characters becomes impregnated after having sex with her (infected with alien worms) husband.

She immediately wants to abort, but is convinced into not doing so until more info. becomes available.

She wakes in the middle of the night with what is obviously not a normal fetus moving inside her, and she proceeds to put herself into the auto-doc, which performs the abortion just in time, as she barely makes it to safety as the now aborted fetus thingy really doesn't like her.

Definitely no sadness or regret on her part.

I can imagine this could closely parallel the way a woman having become pregnant through rape might feel - something along the lines of "get this f-ing thing out of me now!".

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    Strictly speaking, I believe this contradicts one of the rules in the OP, specifically, "Everything is played straight - it's not a dark comedy or a 'what if' situation or an alien having the abortion, etc" – Octopus Sep 1 '17 at 18:51
  • Technically I think this is more of a case of a parasite hijacking her reproductive system, so it's a bit debatable whether or not that counts. There isn't any moral judgements or social stigma around having parasites surgically removed. – Amicable Sep 4 '17 at 14:02
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You can watch Jessica Jones (Netflix series) there is an episode where she ask a innocent girl to make abortion of an antagonist child.

Some reference

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    Is there anymore detail you would like to add in order to support your train of thought for the question? Try to avoid one sentence answers. Please visit the help centre: movies.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-answer – natural Aug 30 '17 at 2:59
  • Actually, it is the girl that is requesting the abortion because she became impregnated against her will by a mind controlling villain (one of the nastiest villains I've ever seen). – Rodney P. Barbati Sep 1 '17 at 17:31

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