The one topic you'd never expect a romantic comedy to tackle.

Would you watch this film? Still from Obvious Child.




Rom-coms are a varied genre. Especially when it comes to quality (case in point: comparing New Year’s Eve with You’ve Got Mail).

But despite their often happy-clappy endings, they don’t just deal in chocolates and roses.

Rom-com plot devices include separation (The Break-Up), divorce (It’s Complicated), unplanned pregnancies (Juno and Knocked Up), comas (While You Were Sleeping), mental illness (Silver Linings Playbook), death (Death at a Funeral), and loss of love and desire (Hope Springs).

But one plot device you likely haven’t seen in a rom-com recently, is abortion.

But that’s about to change. Director and screenwriter Gillian Robespierre created a short film five years ago about a 20-something woman who decides to get an abortion. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the short film has now been expanded into a feature length film.

Robespierre says she wanted to create a film about what happens when a woman gets pregnant – but realises she’s not ready to be a parent.

“It was my frustration about the portrayal of real women going through real problems and unplanned pregnancy is one of them,” Robespierre told Salon. “There was a slew of movies in 2007 which I enjoyed, but they all dealt with unplanned pregnancy with having the baby at the end. And it wasn’t the story that rang true to me or people that I knew.”

Obvious Child is the antithesis of films like Juno and Knocked Up. It’s a film about what happens when a woman decides not to keep a baby.

Importantly, Robespierre says this is also a film where abortion “doesn’t leave an emotional scar.”


In the film, the main character Donna is a stand-up comedian whose life is a mess. She’s going through a break-up. She’s on the verge of unemployment. She’s living between the houses of her divorced parents. She feels, basically, that she’s not in any position to become a single mother.

It’s a situation that many women will face in their lifetime. If not in these exact circumstances, then in similar ones.

Kate Winslet’s character in Revolutionary Road was killed by her abortion.

Given the almost commonplace nature of the story – of abortion – it seems a bit strange that this topic hasn’t been touched upon in many mainstream rom-coms in the past. Particularly as the genre doesn’t shy away from other, more serious themes, like death and depression.

Tellingly, when abortion is part of the plot in most movies, it doesn’t end well for the female characters. Slate recently reported on a new study, which found that Hollywood greatly exaggerated the risk of getting an abortion.

That is, a disproportionate number of characters died after getting abortions. In fact, some characters even died after contemplating getting an abortion. From Slate:

Of the 310 movies and episodes that featured abortion as a major plotline or featured an abortion provider as a main character, a striking 9 percent portrayed the death of a woman after having—or even deciding on—an abortion. That includes a total of five films and TV shows in which a woman resolves to get an abortion and then changes her mind, but subsequently meets her end. (The actual risk of death from reported legal abortion in the U.S. is less than 1 per 100,000 procedures.) Paradoxically, other medical predicaments appear to have better-than-real-life outcomes on TV and film. Studies have found that CPR is much more effective on TV and soap opera characters are much more likely to wake up from a coma.

It seems a shame that even in film – where scriptwriters can literally write their character’s destiny – there is still so much shame and stigma (and a high mortality rate for women) when it comes to abortion.

Robespierre’s film Obvious Child doesn’t have a distributor yet, but she’s already started work on her next film.

It’s going to be a comedy about divorce.

Would you watch a rom com about abortion? Or do you think the idea is insensitive? Are you surprised that, in film, women who get abortions face such deadly outcomes?