The Abortion You Won’t See In ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’
For a film that attempts to paint an authentic portrait of modern motherhood, I Don’t Know How She Does It glosses over what ultimately leads a lot of women to become parents — an unintended pregnancy. When Momo Hahn, the single and childless co-worker played by Olivia Munn, announces to Sarah Jessica Parker that she doesn’t want kids it’s nearly expected that the stoic and somewhat cold colleague will find herself confronted with the opportunity.
Momo does end up becoming pregnant and after watching Sarah Jessica stress about lice infections, bake sales, and pickup schedules, being a parent does not appeal to the ambitious career woman. But after Olivia Munn mentions to SJP that she will be out of the office the following morning for a doctor’s appointment, she implies to the mother of two what type of appointment that is: an abortion.
Sarah Jessica’s character hurriedly attempts to ask Munn to reconsider in a slap-dash speech that I wouldn’t consider necessarily pro-choice or pro-life. With a big grin, she tells Munn that despite all the hassle and worries and running around with crackers in her purse, having children is worth it. But mid-sentence, SJP remembers that she is late to pickup up her kids and flies out of the office leaving the highly sensitive scenario unresolved. Between marital disputes, parental guilt, and buzzing Blackberries, you don’t find out until scenes later that Munn’s character has decided to keep her child.
What ensues then is a series of regrets over morning sickness, followed by the obligatory shot of Munn in the hospital with her baby towards the end of the film.
It’s a cheap tactic on the part of the writers to attempt to “humanize” the one cold, childless woman in the film by giving her a baby. Becoming familiar with Momo in the film makes you even wonder whether the woman made anxious by hugs is really well-suited to parenting outside the safe realms of a Sarah Jessica Parker comedy.
But while it’s understandable that Momo’s trajectory include parenting for the sake of the film, women choosing abortion on screen is still not something we see often enough, especially if we’re looking to present an authentic depiction of motherhood as it is today. Work-life balance, upkeeping a marriage, and maintaining a career in the face of parenthood is undoubtedly a Olympic Triathlon that many mothers are familiar with. But considering that six in ten women who get abortions in the United States are mothers already, that experience is consistently kept out of the depiction of a “mother.”
The face of abortion remains the scared, underage girl with very few options (those cases account for just two in ten), despite that women with children make up more than half of all patients.
While I didn’t expect I Don’t Know How She Does It to grapple with such subject matter, it would have been nice if they had at least alluded to it.