Book reviews

Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan’s Unpregnant (HarperTeen, 2019)

Standard plot, tries to make abortion funny, written by zealots.  Next teen abortion novel, please….

This teen abortion novel is meant to be a unique, comical take on how a teen mother faces an untimely pregnancy, but it’s a typical teen abortion novel.  The tired clichés and plot features that have been used since Richard Brautigan wrote his 1971 novel The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 continue in this work.  Not much has changed in fifty years.

Despite that, pro-life readers can use this novel as evidence that even activist anti-life authors know that abortion is negative, a moral wrong, and disastrous.  If this novel fails at making abortion comical, the teaching value of this typical teen abortion novel redeems it.

For example, Veronica is a typical teen mother in a typical teen abortion novel; she thinks of the abortion business Planned Parenthood first—not a pregnancy support center or her parents, or her church or synagogue, or any other source which can help her with an untimely pregnancy.  Her first thought is to get an abortion and kill the unborn child.

In fact, Veronica’s claim that “I was out of options” is feeble (48).  How can Veronica, a teen in the contemporary United States, think only of an abortion clinic when pregnancy support groups which help women outnumber abortion clinics which subject those women to harm?  Such a ridiculous claim demonstrates either the abortion zealotry of the authors or Veronica’s complete ignorance.  Since she is supposed to be a brilliant student, the former must be true.

Also, this novel continues the anti-life practice of using euphemisms to refer to the abortion or the unborn child him- or herself.  (For obvious reasons; if someone refers to an unborn child, then that person must acknowledge the humanity of the child, making killing him or her nearly impossible.)

For example, the abortion itself is euphemistically changed from “the weekend you got an abortion” to “the weekend you saw Roswell” (82-3).  Veronica calls the abortion her “thing” (188).  Like many other abortion novels, no description of the abortion is provided; the novel resumes after the killing is over (262).

Instead of an unborn baby boy or girl, the unborn child is called “the currently occupied state of my uterus” (37) or “whatever’s going on in there” (191).

Of course, the novels contain the customary anti-religious references.  Although attacks on Catholics have long been a feature of pro-abortion fiction since the early days of the genre, the main character seems more Protestant than Catholic Christian; thus, the anti-religious elements are attacks against Evangelical Christians more than other denominations.

As pro-lifers know, a mother who aborts will feel relief that the “problem” of an untimely pregnancy is resolved, even if by abortion, but eventually post-abortion syndrome (PAS) will occur.  Veronica is a typical teen aborted mother in this regard as well.  Her PAS manifests itself soon after the killing.  Veronica asserts, “all anyone would remember about me now was that I was the girl who got an abortion” (265).  Other typical post-abortion symptoms manifest themselves quickly: Veronica remains angry at Kevin, the father of the child (269); she “didn’t recognize” herself (295); and she lies to her parents about breaking up with Kevin (296).

Perhaps the standard abortion plot can be attributed to the authors’ strong anti-life positions on the first right-to-life issue.  Both Hendriks and Caplan praise the National Abortion Rights [sic] Action League (which changed its name to “NARAL Pro-Choice America” because “abortion” is still negative) and the abortion business Planned Parenthood (308).  Hendriks’ Catholic mother objected to a priest talking in support of protective legislation (308), and Caplan utters the ridiculous anti-life slogan that “no one should be forced to have a baby” as his naïve justification of abortion, which harms mothers, kills unborn babies, and alienates fathers (309).

It is curious, also, why it took two people to write a typical teen abortion novel.

Is this novel worth reading?  Yes, if only to see that the plot of typical teen abortion novels hasn’t changed in fifty years.  This could show either literary continuity with “the tradition” or a plot sequence which is incredibly stale.  I think it’s the latter.

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