A Film For The Staunchest of Pro-Lifers
On June 24th, 2022, the Supreme Court decided 6-3 to reverse the historic Roe v. Wade case, declaring that the nearly 50 year old constitutional right to abortion no longer exists in the United States. Abortion has always been an extremely controversial topic around the world, and America is no different. In the past week, thousands of protests have turned up in various cities, not all of them within the country. Millions and millions of people have expressed their distain for the Supreme Court's decision, myself included. There's no denying that this is a dark time for America, and tensions are running high. But to all the "pro-life" or pro-birth who are currently celebrating this landmark decision, if you're willing to have an open mind, I'd like to introduce you to a film called Never Rarely Sometimes Always.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a film by director, Eliza Hittman that was released in early 2020. At its core, I suppose you could call it a teen drama but it's so much more than that. The story follows Autumn Callahan, a 17 year old girl from Pennsylvania, who finds herself in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy. With the help of her cousin, Skylar, the two steal money from the grocery store where they work and buy two bus tickets to New York City, where abortion is safe and legal.
It's an extremely harrowing story, early on we see Autumn unsuccessfully try a meriad of methods to induce a miscarriage. We see Autumn and Skylar have to spend a night on the subway after finding out Autumn's procedure will take place the day after they arrive. We also learn that Autumn's home life is less-than-ideal, the father of the fetus is unknown to the audience but through a series of surveys she has to take, we find out he is completely unsuitable to be a parent or supportive partner. In order to get money for a ticket home, Skylar has to offer herself to a man in exchange for a ticket home. Everything that could possibly go wrong for them eventually does, and you truly ache for Autumn and Skylar because nothing makes them feel like movie characters, and the same goes for the film as a whole. Never Rarely Sometimes Always feels less like a movie and more like you followed around two real people with a camera. Every scene is so non-cinematic, it's incredibly easy to put yourself in Autumn's shoes, a young woman with a dilemma.
Abortion is of course, a women's issue, and there is a lot of debate as to where men fit in the discussion. Ultimately, in individual situations, men have a right to be included in the discussion if their partner is weighing her options. However, in terms of the legality, safety, and accessibility of reproductive healthcare, that's a decision for women, and this film understands that. With the exception of one character, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is devoid of men, because the director knows that this isn't about anyone but the girl carrying the fetus. There is a strong sense of the female gaze throughout the runtime, at no point does the narrative stray away from Autumn and her decision. In a way, Never Rarely Sometimes Always feels like a love letter to the women who have had to deal with the termination of a pregnancy, and the crushing toll it takes on one's conscience.
Abortion is one of many important life events that don't get a celebration. You don't get to bring anything home from the hospital in a blanket, nobody brings you cake or balloons, there probably won't be people at your house, waiting for you with a giant "welcome home!" or "congratulations!" sign. You'll often hear stories about people's decision process, the agonizing stay in the waiting room, the painful procedure, but rarely will you hear about the aftermath. What a lot of people don't seem to understand is that getting an abortion is never an easy decision to make. Nobody is ever giddy with excitement to go through the physical, emotional, spiritual pain that comes with terminating a pregnancy. Often, it is used as a last resort. In an ideal world, there would be no abortions, there would be adequate sex education, easy access to contraceptives, pregnancies that only occur when somebody is emotionally and financially stable to care for a child. However, that's just wishful thinking, in reality, we need access to these services that make people uncomfortable, because if we don't it'll do irreperable harm to the women of our society, and how others percieve them. What a woman does with her body is her choice, she knows it best, and if she is not ready for the emotional and physical strain of having a child, she should not have to carry one. Forced motherhood is enslavement.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always is extraordinary because it paints a realistic picture of how modern women get abortions. I feel like there is almost a stereotype now that women terminate pregnancies simply because they're careless or too lazy to use protection, or just want to live life without consequences, but that is so far from the truth. If you want a glimpse into how abortions really happen, look no further than Never Rarely Sometimes Always. I truly believe that if we encourage pro-birth people to watch movies like these, listen to the stories of people who have been through abortions, and educate them on reproductive rights, it'll improve our society for the better, making us all more tolerant and understanding.