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The issue of abortion always raises heated debates, as it is a really complex subject with serious moral, political, and social implications. Without trying to trivialize it, we at El American have made a selection of two films that can help us reflect on such a thorny issue.
Just as with other controversial issues, one can find a certain relationship between political or religious tendency and position on the subject. With abortion, there is no such association at all. In fact, one could say it is one of the issues that cause the greatest confrontations between people of the same political or even religious affiliation.
Within classical liberalism, which defends life, private property, and liberty, we can find different sides. You have interpretations such as those of Ayn Rand or Murray Rothbard, who would come to consider the fetus as an invader of the private property of the mother’s body; but also other ideas that consider that the fetus is a separate life and that, therefore, its right to live should be above that questionable right of maternal property.
Recently, a debate on YouTube between Gloria Álvarez and Agustín Laje was a trending topic in several Spanish-speaking countries, demonstrating irreconcilable positions within classical liberalism and the right-wing on abortion.
Leaving aside the moral question -which is not trivial-, perhaps we should ask ourselves about the government’s role and the consequences of the different legal and economic measures that may be adopted. In the first place, we would have the question of whether abortion should be criminalized or decriminalized. And secondly, whether it should be subsidized and encouraged by the government or not.
The films “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days” and “Unplanned” can help us reflect on these questions.
4 months, 3 weeks, two days. Does banning abortion work?
The film “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days” is part of the group of works of the so-called “Romanian new wave,” characterized by being set during the communist dictatorship and exploring the themes of freedom and the consequences of socialism.
Directed by Cristian Mungiu in 2007, it is a heartbreaking drama about socialist birth policies in Ceaușescu’s communist Romania. In 1947, with the socialist revolution, abortion was legalized in Romania. Still, with Ceaușescu’s rise to power, and in the face of the country’s low birth rate, the practice of abortion was strictly forbidden, giving rise to one of the few baby booms in non-capitalist countries. In a short space of time, births doubled.
In this film, we can see the story of a Romanian girl who decides to undergo a clandestine abortion. It is shot in a very realistic and sordid way, with great rawness, even though it is such a delicate subject. In an atmosphere dominated by an omnipresent government’s oppression, we can observe the chain of corruption and depravity generated by prohibition.
Because of this social engineering and economic ruin, many mothers gave their babies to orphanages. The documentary film “Children of the Decree” (2005) narrates the terrible lives of abandoned children in orphanages run by the communist state.
Physical and psychological mistreatment, sexual abuse, malnutrition, subhuman hygienic conditions were some of the horrors suffered by thousands of orphaned children in Romania. Although technically they were not orphans, because their parents were alive, they were children of communism and a prohibition that multiplied them far from solving problems.
Unplanned: Should abortion be encouraged and subsidized?
“Unplanned” is a 2019 film based on Abby Johnson’s memoirs, who went from being the director of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic to becoming an anti-abortion activist. But almost as interesting as the story the film tells is the story itself surrounding the film’s release.
Unplanned had a low budget, mostly from private contributions, of only about $6 million, which shows its production quality, reminiscent of a cable television movie. Despite all the obstacles to its release and distribution, it was a hit with audiences, with a total box office gross of close to $19 million, exceeding the production company’s expectations.
Due to its clear pro-life stance, the film had to be filmed under strict secrecy to avoid protests and possible sabotage by abortionist groups. Crew members signed confidentiality documents not to give details to the press or on social networks to fear possible reprisals.
Might this seem far-fetched? Well, the events surrounding its release prove that it is not. The truth is that the film faced great vicissitudes. Many music labels refused to sell the rights to songs like Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” or The Fray’s “How to Save a Life” for the film.
He also had to see how the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), which rates films and makes recommendations on the age of viewers, due to the explicit scenes of abortions, rated the film as R, one of the toughest, which restricts its viewing to those under 17 years of age not accompanied by an adult. It is a paradox that, on many occasions, a 15-year-old girl can have an abortion without the knowledge of her parents, but she cannot watch this film without their accompaniment.
With the R rating’s excuse, or recognizing that due to its pro-life theme, many media outlets refused to advertise the film, as was the case of Google, A&E Networks, or NBCUniversal.
Twitter suspended the film’s official account during the weekend of its release, and strange behavior in the number of followers was reported. Although Twitter eventually reinstated the account, the damage had already been done.
Once released, criticism from the establishment media was fierce. While the media congratulated themselves with Achilles or Zeus being portrayed by African-American actors or showing the Founding Fathers be played by actors of various races in the musical Hamilton, without seeming to care about historical rigor, in this case, they were very purist when it came to questioning the credibility of the protagonist about an abortion performed at 13 weeks on a black woman, and The New York Times was quick to clarify that, according to science, a fetus at that point does not react as shown in the film.
On Rotten Tomatoes, specialized critics gave it a score of 42%, while the public rated it 94%. For Metacritic it was the second-worst film of the year, with a score of 10 out of 100, while it was universally acclaimed by its audience with 9.6 out of 10.
It seems that the film is not forgiven for narrating the devastating psychological consequences for women who decide to have an abortion, showing them other alternatives, but above all, it seems to be upset that it questions the ethical standards of Planned Parenthood’s abortion business, which receives 617 million dollars in federal funds, which account for 37% of its income, according to The Washington Times.With the arrival of Joe Biden to the presidency, the questionable practices of clinics like Planned Parenthood that the film seeks to highlight will probably be reproduced again, after a few years in which their numbers dropped thanks to Donald Trump’s measures.
Ignacio Manuel García Medina, Business Management teacher. Artist and lecturer specialized in Popular Culture for various platforms. Presenter of the program "Pop Libertario" for the Juan de Mariana Institute. Lives in the Canary Islands, Spain // Ignacio M. García Medina es profesor de Gestión de Empresas. Es miembro del Instituto Juan de Mariana y conferenciante especializado en Cultura Popular e ideas de la Libertad.
Social Networks: @ignaciomgm