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The "Keeping My Baby" Meme -- part three

Posted by Joshua Glenn  January 7, 2008 09:02 PM

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Click here to see part one of this series.

Click here to see part two of this series.

THE "KEEPING MY BABY" MEME IN US POP CULTURE: A TIMELINE
***
THE NINETIES (1994-2003)

Things get very strange. A number of TV story lines conclude with characters who had been leaning toward abortion impulsively changing their minds (or having a convenient miscarriage, or realizing they weren't pregnant after all), leaving unresolved the difficulties that prompted them to consider abortion in the first place.

1994

* Mother Teresa speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast in front of Bill and Hillary Clinton, saying "the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion." Also, Congress enacts the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. Also, in NOW v. Scheidler, the Supreme Court affirms the National Organization of Women's right to use federal anti-racketeering laws against anti-abortion terrorists who organize others to use fear, force, and violence to shut down women's health clinics where abortions are performed.

* US Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackman, author of Roe v. Wade, retires.

* In a January 1994 episode of "90210" (fourth season), Andrea Zuckerman (Gabrielle Carteris), now a college freshman, learns that she is pregnant. The father is her boyfriend Jesse Vasquez (Mark Damon Espinoza), who has just been offered a clerkship in San Francisco; she doesn't want to hold him back, so she has trouble telling him about it. Andrea briefly considers an abortion, and tells her friends about the rights that women before her have struggled to win, how she's not ready for a baby, and how it's all a mistake. In a February episode, Jesse breaks up with Andrea after she shares her plans to have an abortion. He later reconsiders, and Andrea reveals that -- after communing with her unborn child -- she has decided to have the baby. They get engaged.

PS: In real life, Carteris (33, playing a teenager) decided she and her husband wanted to start a family. So she went to producer Aaron Spelling and discussed ways that her being pregnant might be part of the story line. Spelling was receptive, and an agreement was made for Andrea to conceive -- accidentally. In a 1994 Entertainment Weekly article, Lisa Schwarzbaum writes:

This is how far we haven't come: If any character on television represents the kind of highly educated, career-minded young woman who-after deepest soul- searching-might decide to terminate an accidental pregnancy, it's Andrea Zuckerman. She is, indeed, exactly the kind of young woman who would have made the agonizing but very real choice of abortion a believable and powerful drama for "90210" to pursue.

* In a season 3 episode "Melrose Place," Jo kills her former high school flame Reed Carter (a drug smuggler who has kidnapped her) in self-defense; but learns later that she is pregnant with his child. She plans to have an abortion; then, later in the same episode, decides to have the baby.

An article in Feminista puts matters very well:

Never in the course of television would an abortion have been more easily dispatched, or more welcomed by mainstream America. Every American but the most rabid, right-wing clinic bomber would accept Jo aborting a fetus conceived with a man who tried to kill her, held her hostage, and dealt in illegal drugs (the horror!). After all, we pretty much accepted her killing Reed, a full grown man, as an act of self-preservation; wouldn't ending this pregnancy be a similar act? Once again, a la Andrea [i.e., from "90210"], Jo spouted some banal cliches about the right to choose, and then abruptly decided that come hell or high water, she was having this baby.

PS: Later, Kimberly takes Jo to the beach house and induces labor; she checks Jo into the hospital, claiming that she delivered a stillborn child. Eventually, Jo gets her son back, and hires an Englishwoman as her son's nanny; but when Jo prepares to move to New York, the nanny steals the baby. Turns out it was Kimberly's idea. Jo gets shot, then gives the baby up for adoption.

* June 29: Dr. John Britton and James Barrett, an abortion clinic escort, are shot outside of a facility in Pensacola. Rev. Paul Jennings Hill receives a death sentence for the killings.

* December 30: Two receptionists, Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols, are killed in an abortion clinic attack in Brookline, Massachusetts. John Salvi, who prior to his arrest was distributing pamphlets from Human Life International, is arrested and confesses to the killings.

1995

* Pope John Paul II publishes an anti-abortion encyclical, "The Gospel of Life."

* In November, the U.S. House passes the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, the first federal bill since Roe v. Wade to ban one type of abortion, with a vote of 288-139. In December, the U.S. Senate passes the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, 54-44. The following April, President Clinton issues his first veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

* Julia Santos (Sydney Penny), a character on the soap opera "All My Children" (see 1973/Erica Kane), is raped, which resulted in a pregnancy that she terminates. AMC head writer Megan McTavish says: "I think it was more controversial in 1995, when we did Julia's than when Agnes [Nixon, AMC's creator] did Erica's. By the time we approached Julia's, the political and religious ramifications of the act had [become so divisive]. I think [ABC] handled it very smartly -- in other words, they didn't try to slip it on anybody. We warned everybody first. We told the advertisers that this would be the content and we left it up to them whether or not they chose to advertise." McTavish also says: "I think it would have been much more difficult to do an abortion if it hadn't been a case of rape," and notes that the scriptwriters included anti-abortion opinions.

* "Circle of Friends," starring Minnie Driver -- info TK

* "Jane: An Abortion Service" -- documentary about women who learned how to perform abortions when it was illegal.

1996

* President Clinton and Vice President Gore defeat the anti-abortion Republican ticket of Bob Dole and Jack Kemp.

* Eighty-six percent of counties in the US have no abortion services and the number of abortion providers continues a downward decline in 44 states.

* In the movie "Citizen Ruth," Laura Dern plays a homeless, glue-huffing pregnant woman -- who already had four children, all of whom have been taken from her custody by the state because of her inability to care for them -- who attracts attention from those involved in the debate about the morality and legality of abortion. Both sides of the debate are lampooned: the anti-abortion people run a fake abortion clinic, where they actually seek to dissuade patients from receiving the proffered service; and the pro-choice people have spies in the anti-abortion group, who spirit Ruth away. On the day Ruth is to receive her abortion, she suffers... yes, a miscarriage.

citizenruth.jpg
"Citizen Ruth"

* HBO's Golden Globe and Emmy Award-nominated TV movie "If These Walls Could Talk" (d. Nancy Savoca, and Cher) follows the plights of three different women in 1952, 1974, and 1996. Cher, Demi Moore, Sissy Spacek, and Anne Heche portray, respectively, an abortion doctor, a pregnant war widow, a paycheck-to-paycheck mother of four, and a graduate student, the latter three all considering abortion. The film became a surprise success, and was HBO's highest rated movie ever.

* "Critical Choices" -- TV movie. Margaret (Betty Buckley) operates the only abortion clinic in Madison, Wisconsin and Diana (Diana Scarwid) is an avid supporter. Arlene (Pamela Reed) is a right wing abolitionist. Their views differ, but their dedication and respect for each other remains very strong.

* "Invasion of Privacy" -- A mentally unbalanced man kidnaps the woman carrying his child to prevent her from having an abortion.

* In a January episode of "90210" (6th season), Brandon's girlfriend Susan (Emma Caulfield) is nominated for a college journalism award for her story about a girl's decision to have an abortion. Susan confesses to Brandon that the story was about herself; devastated by her sister's death, she had a drunken sexual encounter and wound up pregnant. The baby's father proposed, and was crushed when she chose to terminate the pregnancy.

* On "Melrose Place," Billy's wife Brooke thinks she's pregnant, finds out she isn't, then pretends that she has suffered a miscarriage. She pushes Billy to get her pregnant "again," to no avail.

* In a September episode of "90210," Kenny, the married lover of Valerie Malone (Tiffani Thiessen) tells her cannot see her for a while, because he's getting divorced from his wife. She storms into his office and announces that she is pregnant; he later pays her $100,000 to have an abortion. When Brandon finds out that she was faking her pregnancy, he forces Valerie to return the money.

* UPDATE: In a February episode of "Party of Five," Julia (Neve Campbell) finds out she's pregnant. Her older brother, Charlie (Matthew Fox), finds her pregnancy test in the trash and tells her what she would be giving up if she keeps the baby. He confesses to her that when he was in college one of his girlfriends got pregnant and had an abortion. Julia feels awful and so does her boyfriend, Justin (Michael Goorjian). They have a fight -- because he will get over it soon, but she has to "carry this fact for the rest of [her] life." Julia's young sister, Claudia (Lacey Chabert), finds out and is shocked. Her brother Bailey (Scott Wolf) and Sarah (Jennifer Love Hewitt) plan on sleeping together, but Julia's news scares them. Julia tries to talk with Sarah about her pregnancy, but Sarah says that if her mom decided to have an abortion, she wouldn't be there. Then, on the way to the abortion clinic, Julia has a miscarriage! Claudia apologizes to Julia. -- Thanks, reader Sy I.

Julia and Claudia discuss abortion

Commenting on the "convenient miscarriage" gimmick on TV shows in the Nineties, Rachel Fudge writes:

According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, some 13 percent of unwanted pregnancies end in miscarriage, but on TV that number is much, much higher. The convenient miscarriage goes something like this: Sympathetic lead character gets knocked up. SLC agonizes over what to do, sometimes going so far as to visit an abortion clinic. SLC decides that although she believes in a woman's right to choose (her boyfriend or best friend most likely feels significantly different, however), she's going to keep her baby. Moral dilemma resolved, SLC spontaneously miscarries; SLC is sad but realizes that in the end she wasn't really ready to be a mother anyway. (Alternatively, the pregnancy turns out to be a false alarm, an even more tidy wrap-up to the dilemma.) The convenient miscarriage/false alarm remains the most popular strategy for dodging abortion, as it allows TV producers to congratulate themselves for tackling the tough topics without having to take an actual stand.
1997

* The U.S. House passes the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act by a veto-proof margin of 295-136. The U.S. Senate, in its second attempt, passes the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act 64-36, three votes short of the majority needed to override President Clinton's expected veto. (Opponents of the partial-birth abortion law, which is written by National Right to Life, claim that it pretends to outlaw one abortion procedure but is a ruse to ban all abortions.) President Clinton again vetoes the ban on partial-birth abortions.

* In a May episode of "90210," Kelly learns that she is pregnant, and has difficulty breaking the news to her mother. Brandon is thrilled, but Kelly isn't sure that she wants the baby. In the following episode, Kelly suffers a miscarriage, and learns that she may not be able to have children.

* On "Melrose Place, " Alison learns that she is pregnant. She and Jake are to marry in a civil ceremony, but Alison hides in the bathroom at City Hall. Jake postpones the ceremony. Alison becomes fed up with Jake's attempts to control her and turn her into a housewife. She splits up with Jake, who believes that she is going to have an abortion, but she does not. She decides to keep the baby, after practically being forced by Jake into "doing the right thing." Alison takes Jake back, then gets confined to bed due to complications in her pregnancy. Then she disobeys her doctor's orders by going back to work for a presentation; she later collapses in pain. Alison loses the baby, and learns that... she is now sterile. She proposes to Jake. Then she becomes an alcoholic.

* In the last three abortion decisions of the century, the US Supreme Court agrees to new restrictions against minors and physician's assistants, and narrows zones of protection from protesters at abortion clinics.

1998

* The US has the highest teen pregnancy rates of any industrialized nation. Anti-abortion groups push through numerous obstacles to abortion in state legislatures.

* January 29: Robert Sanderson, an off-duty police officer who worked as a security guard at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama died when his workplace was bombed. (The song "Hello Birmingham" from the 1999 album "To The Teeth," by Ani DiFranco, was written in response.)

* In an April episode of "ER" (4th season), the bombing of an abortion clinic brings in many victims, pregnant women and protestors alike. Anna walks out on a trauma involving a partial abortion, which doesn't please Weaver. In an October episode (5th season), Doug and Carol ponder parenthood when Carol realizes she may be pregnant. In a November episode, in the wake of a failed pregnancy attempt, Carol lashes out at a mother using abortion as a means of selective birth control. PS: In 1999, Carol will get pregnant with twins, and deliver them successfully.

* October 23: Dr. Barnett Slepian was shot dead at his home in Amherst, New York. His was the last in a series of similar shootings against abortion providers in Canada and northern New York state which were all likely committed by James Kopp. Kopp was convicted of Slepian's murder after being apprehended in France in 2001.

1999

* The movie "Cider House Rules" takes what a Planned Parenthood essay calls "a more realistic approach" to the abortion issue, focusing on the effects of illegal abortions on those who received and performed them. Michael Caine plays a doctor who quietly provides safe abortions to those who seek him out. Charlize Theron plays one of these women, who has an abortion when her fiancé goes to war. Alas, he returns, paralyzed, unable to father children.

* In a September 1999 episode of "90210" (10th season), Steve's girlfriend, Janet (Lindsay Price), tells Steve that she is pregnant. Steve becomes outraged that he had been kept in the dark for so long. Janet tells Steve that he can choose how much involvement he wants with the child; he is unsure of what to do. In the following episode, Steve suddenly proposes to Janet during a fashion show. She accepts, but then changes her mind because she fears they would be marrying for the wrong reasons. In a later episode, Janet insists that she loves Steve, but believes that his chaotic lifestyle would be harmful to the child. Steve later breaks down in tears and argues that his spontaneity does not mean that he cannot be a responsible husband and father. He surprises Janet with a proposal during her ultrasound, and she accepts.

* In Kevin Smith's "Dogma," the last-known descendant of Jesus Christ is an abortion clinic worker. Ha.

* Publication of "Speaking of Abortion: Television and Authority in the Lives of Women" (University of Chicago Press). I haven't seen this book...

2000

* In a 5-4 vote, the US Supreme Court strikes down a Nebraska ban on so-called "partial-birth abortion," finding it an unconstitutional violation of Roe v. Wade.

* The FDA approves mifepristone (RU-486), following a 16-year struggle by reproductive rights activists to have the safe and effective abortion drug approved. Opponents made repeated efforts to prevent approval and distribution of mifepristone and are continuing efforts through a petition to the FDA to have the drug withdrawn.

* During season 7 of "ER." Chen discovers she's pregnant in the season premiere. In November, Chen's mother visits the ER and invites her to dinner, even though she is surprised by Chen's pregnancy, and speechless when Chen tells her that the father is black. Then Corday discovers that she's pregnant.

* In a November episode of "Dawson's Creek," Joey seeks advice from Jen, now that she has the feeling sexual intimacy with Pacey is approaching. Jen tells her to go to the clinic to get protection.

2001

* In a March episode of "ER," Luka treats another pregnant teenager, who wants the comfort that a child will bring her. In May, Carter treats a young girl whose boyfriend has been interfering with her pregnancy by feeding her herbal root extracts to cause a natural abortion. Also in May: Abby reveals to her mother that she was pregnant once, but had an abortion, scared about the genetic possibility of herself or her child turning out bipolar. In November, money from the nurses' secret stash and Frank's Palm Pilot go missing, only to turn up in Nicole's purse; she later tells Luka that she's pregnant. Abby openly questions Nicole's pregnancy; Nicole confesses to Luka that she was faking it and that she plans to move to Montreal. In December, Abby catches Nicole in the maternity ward, recovering from an abortion. Go figure...

* In an April episode of "Dawson's Creek," as Gale's delivery date approaches, the girls throw a baby shower for her... but it's an experience that throws Joey for a loop when she realizes it's possible that she could be pregnant, and Pacey is nowhere to be found. False alarm, though.

2002

* "One Day in May" -- TV movie. A college senior must overcome abuse and betrayal to fight for the life of his girlfriend's unborn baby.

* In a January episode of "NYPD Blue," Haywood tells Jones that she thinks she is pregnant and he wonders when he will be involved in the decision process. Following episode: Haywood and Jones discuss the fact the she's been keeping him out of the loop in her decision making. Following episode: Haywood and Jones talk about the baby, but Haywood seems distant, she tells him that she is just tired, which the doctor says is normal. Following episode: Haywood meets with Jones in the hallway and she tells him that she is going to be taking some time off. She reveals to him that she had miscarried the day before.

PS: In a March episode of "NYPD Blue," Haywood's name is found on a list of visitors to an abortion clinic, which leads Jones to believe that she had an abortion. Haywood claims she was just there for counseling.

2003

* Congress passes and President Bush signs the so-called "Partial Birth" Abortion Ban -- the first federal ban on an abortion procedure since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. See 2007.

* "Out of the Ashes" -- TV movie starring Christine Lahti.

* A May episode of the WB show "Everwood" takes a new angle on the issue, focusing on the moral dilemma faced by small-town Colorado doctor Andy Brown (Treat Williams), the show's protagonist. Dr. Brown agonizes over performing an abortion for an 18-year-old; he urges her to think about the decision and obtain counseling about it. The young woman finds the decision difficult but believes it's the right one. In the end, Brown decides he can't perform the procedure it in good conscience, and passes the case to a colleague, who does it -- then heads off to a priest to confess his sins. Many reviewers praised the realism of the program and its acknowledgment of multiple perspectives. Less enthusiastic were religious conservatives and a number of "Everwood" advertisers who declined to sponsor that episode.

* In a December episode of "ER," Carter returns from the Congo, where he's developed a relationship with Makemba "Kem" Likasu (Thandie Newton), an AIDS clinic worker, who is six weeks pregnant with his child. Carter talks Kem into going with him to have the baby in Chicago. (Things end badly; see 2004.)

* In an episode of the HBO show "Six Feet Under," teenage lead Claire Fisher (Lauren Ambrose) realizes that she is pregnant by her most-likely-gay ex-boyfriend. The college freshman is matter-of-fact about her decision -- no agonizing whatsoever. 'Do you think you could give me a ride?'' she asks Rachel Griffiths' adult character. ''I have to get an abortion.'' However, in the next episode, her aborted fetus pays her a visit, appearing as a cute infant. (In the previous season, an aborted fetus -- portrayed as a 7-year-old -- visits Nate Fisher, telling him: "Hi. You killed me." And: "I don't harbor any bad feelings or anything. I'm pro-choice. Well, at least I would be, if I were alive.")

* In a May (7th season) episode of "7th Heaven," we learn that Mary (Jessica Biel), who has left home and the show, is married. Then, in a September (8th season) episode of "7th Heaven," Mary makes a surprise visit home to deliver unexpected news to Eric and Annie. She's pregnant. And she's keeping the baby. In the season finale, Eric and Annie leave for New York, where Mary is having the baby, even though she asked them to stay away. PS: In season 9, Mary divorces her husband and signs away custody of their son.

* "21 Grams"

***
THE OUGHTS (2004-present)

On TV, so far, not much change from the Nineties. In movies, though, it's all about Keeping My Baby.

Ellen Goodman writes, in today's Boston Globe:

On the one hand, liberals who want teens to have access to contraception and abortion don't want to criticize single mothers. On the other hand, conservatives who want teens to be abstinent until marriage applaud girls who don't have abortions.... There's an unstated compromise that historian Stephanie Coontz of Evergreen State College sees being acted out by the culture: "Social conservatives are backing off on the condemnation of single mothers. Social liberals are backing off on the idea that it's possible to have an abortion and not be ruined by it." This is best expressed by Hollywood, which wants to be all things to all audiences.
2004

* The House of Representatives passes the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2003, which would for the first time establish in federal law a fetus as a legal "person," with individual rights separate from those of the pregnant woman.

* In a May episode of "ER," Carter notices that Makemba "Kem" Likasu (Thandie Newton)'s baby is not kicking. A visit to the hospital reveals that he has died in utero, and labor must be induced.

* A two-part episode of the teen soap "Degrassi: The Next Generation" makes headlines when 14-year-old lead character Manny gets pregnant, has an abortion (saying, "I'm just trying to do the right thing here. For me. For everyone, I guess"), and doesn't express any regret afterward. That particular episode of the show, which is made in Canada and aired in the US on the Viacom-owned cable channel N, isn't aired in the US. this controversial decision revives interest among journalists in the abortion-on-TV question.

* In the shamesploitation comedy "Palindromes," written and directed by Todd Solondz (and nominated for a Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival), the protagonist, a 13-year-old girl named Aviva, wants to have a child. She has sex with a family friend, and becomes pregnant; her parents demand she get an abortion. The operation renders her sterile, though Aviva doesn't know it. She runs away, and ends up at a Christian fundamentalist foster home; it turns out the foster father is a murderer of abortion providers, and his next target is the doctor who performed Aviva's abortion. Aviva joins the hitman hired to do the job, who ends up killing both the doctor and his daughter. As the movie ends, Aviva has convinced herself that she is pregnant once again.

palindromes540w.jpg
"Palindromes"

* In the movie "Vera Drake," Imelda Staunton plays a woman in postwar England who performs abortions on poor and desperate women using caustic household products. When a young woman Vera assists nearly dies, the police arrest Vera. Under questioning, she says, "I help young girls out. Who are they going to turn to?" The police investigator tells her what she is doing is criminal. "That's what you call it," she tells him through tears.

* On an episode of the soap opera "Days of Our Lives," Mimi Lockhart has an abortion without telling Rex, because she thinks he wouldn't want a child.

* In the final episode of the first season of the Fox teen nighttime soap "The O.C.," a teenage character, Theresa Diaz (Navi Rawat), decides to have an abortion and then changes her mind. She says to the show's main character, Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie), who might or might not be the father, "You're not ready for this. I'm not ready for this. I can't do this." Later, she still feels the same way: "I make $11 a day in tips. Not having this baby makes the most sense." But finally, after speaking to an older character who was still melancholy about her own, long-ago abortion, Theresa changes her mind. "As hard as it is to imagine having the baby," she tells Ryan, "I can't really imagine not having it."

PS: The word "abortion" isn't used in the episode; characters speak about "an appointment at Planned Parenthood..." and trail off. Asked about this, the show's creator, Josh Schwartz, said, "There's something about the word 'abortion,' that the show would sink under the weight of it."

2005

* UPDATE: Rebecca Raber, writing in the Village Voice, comments on a 2005 TV trend:

This year on TV, we've seen "Desperate Housewives"' selfish trophy wife Gabrielle (Eva Longoria) get accidentally knocked up and decide to keep the baby (despite not knowing whether her incarcerated husband or her underage gardener is the father) and Cristina (Sandra Oh), the driven, cutthroat intern on "Grey's Anatomy," suffer what was essentially a convenient miscarriage. (She actually had an extrauterine pregnancy that wasn't viable.) These characters are perfect examples of women who, in the real world, might not carry their fetuses to term. The staunchly anti-motherhood Gabrielle only got pregnant because her husband tampered with her birth control pills, and Cristina obsesses so much about getting ahead at her job that a pregnancy (by her boss -- who dumped her, no less) would have been a monumental inconvenience at best and a life-changing setback at worst. While surgeon-to-be Cristina did originally intend to terminate her pregnancy (changing her mind after treating a miraculous patient), there was not so much as a "very special" episode of "Desperate Housewives" in which Gaby weighed her options.

Thanks, reader Ed P. for sending this along.

2006

* In a January episode of "ER," Luka and Abby struggle with a decision about whether to keep their baby (they're not married), which Luka wants but Abby is unsure she is ready to have. Abby treats three patients, each of whom triggers a flashback in which they discuss her fears, and what each of them wants. Luka discovers Neela has consulted with Dr. Coburn about Amanda, a pregnant, and very religious, 15-year-old girl, without first presenting to him. When Amanda's parents refuse an abortion, the two differ over her care and whether Luka is influenced by his Catholicism. Later, Abby discusses her pregnancy with Coburn, and makes an appointment to see her. Luka removes Neela from Amanda's case, before suggesting a termination option that Amanda can accept. Kerry takes a fall on the ice, injuring her hip, which may have to be replaced. After her appointment, Luka finds Abby near the lake. He tells her they can still be together despite her choice, and she tells him she wants them to have the baby.

PS: In 2007, they have their baby, and get married.

* In a February episode of "Desperate Housewives," Gabrielle and Carlos learn she is highly unlikely to conceive a child again because of complications caused from her recent miscarriage. Note: She tumbled down a flight of stairs -- but not before realizing just how much she really wanted to have a baby.

* In a September episode of "Smallville," Zod in Lex (Michael Rosenbaum)'s body advances his plan to transform Earth into a new Krypton, while using Lana (Kristin Kreuk) to produce an heir. Later in the season, Lana marries Lex; a week after the wedding, Lana collapses in pain and passes out. Upon awakening, Lex tells her that she has miscarried the baby. In another episode, however, a doctor tells her that she was never pregnant. Go figure!

* About the movie "Bella," The Detroit News writes:

A barely disguised anti-abortion tract, "Bella" is simple-minded, heavy-handed and as subtle as a gorilla in a tutu. Nina (Tammy Blanchard) is a waitress in a Mexican restaurant in New York City who's fired when she arrives late for work after taking a pregnancy test. Running to her rescue is Jose (Eduardo Verastegui), the restaurant's chef, and brother of its owner, Manny (Manny Perez). Nina tells Jose about her pregnancy, and her intention to get it "taken care of." ... He imagines the horror that would plague Nina following an abortion and decides to save the day.
2007

* The U.S. Supreme Court upholds a federal abortion ban in the cases Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood and Gonzales v. Carhart. The ban, passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in 2003, criminalizes abortions in the second trimester of pregnancy that doctors say are safe and the best to protect women's health.

* UPDATE: In a February episode of "Veronica Mars," Mars (Kristen Bell) is hired to find out who slipped a classmate a drug causing her to have a miscarriage against her will. Plot summary via reader Jason G.

A young woman, daughter of a Christian Fundamentalist TV preacher, miscarries, but due to an allergic reaction (itself described a bit hysterically), finds out she was dosed with RU486. Veronica tracks the mystery, there's a brief red herring that maybe her Fundie dad might have done it to avoid embarrassment, and the villain turns out to be the girl's roommate and childhood best friend, who "induces a miscarriage" (their words, repeated often) against her roommate's will, and whose end-of-show confessional speech sounds like it was taken from a Planned Parenthood brochure -- she was worried that single motherhood would destroy her future and career and etc.

* "Juno"

* "Waitress"

* "Knocked Up"

***

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.

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