Apparently teleporting themselves to an alternate dimension where the federal government doesn’t exist, the state budget to defend blatantly unconstitutional laws is unlimited, and Roe v. Wade never happened, the Oklahoma legislature passed a bill yesterday that would revoke the licenses of physicians who assist in abortions, and would make performing an abortion itself a felony offense. The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed the bill last month with a vote of 59 to 9, and the state’s Senate followed Thursday with a vote of 33 to 12, so for the grand total of 92 lawmakers who believe it is their right to dictate the health needs of the 1.9 million women of their state, we put together a list of movies that dramatize the good old days of illegal abortion. Because clearly it’s not enough to examine the history of illegal abortion or the facts of the present — these people need to be taught a basic sense of empathy.
Men in White (1934)
In this Pre-Code melodrama, Clark Gable’s Dr. Ferguson is engaged to Myrna Loy’s Laura, who somewhat unreasonably can’t understand why he wants to be a doctor, until you remember she’s Myrna Loy and he should spend his days worshiping at her feet. In the end, Laura is shown the value of the entire medical profession and the complete lack of value in her relationship after watching her fiancé attempt to save the life of one of his staffers, who reveals her affair with Dr. Ferguson as she lies dying from the effects of a botched abortion. The judgment for the nurse’s beatific death is placed not on her, but on a society where even a nurse felt it was impossible to seek lawful medical help or the comfort of her partner — proving that even in 1934, when you couldn’t say abortion onscreen, people still had more compassion than the assholes currently sitting in the Oklahoma statehouse.
Love With a Proper Stranger (1963)
Natalie Wood gets pregnant in a one-night stand with Steve McQueen, who she eventually seeks out for help procuring an abortion. Though they don’t go through with the procedure and the film eventually becomes a romance, the first half of the movie documents their pre–Roe v. Wade attempt to raise the money for the operation, find a doctor to perform it, and arrange a clandestine meeting place where the abortion can be undertaken. It’s only when they arrive at the squalid location, out of options and with little reassurance from the dubious doctors who have taken their money but who have no medical equipment or sterilization tools, that Wood dissolves into a panic attack, backing out of the procedure — an outcome that I’m sure Oklahoma lawmakers would proclaim a stunning victory once it starts happening to their constituents.
"I'm having an abortion, and I can't wait!" Do Oklahoma lawmakers really want to deny hero women like Divine the self-actualization and healing that comes from exercising control of their own bodies — [looks up Oklahoma’s trans bathroom stance] — actually, maybe don’t send this one. These cornholes wouldn’t get it.
Dirty Dancing (1987)
Let’s not forget why Baby got put in the corner in the first place. When Johnny’s friend and roommate Penny was suffering the effects of a botched abortion, it was Baby’s dad — Jerry Orbach from the OG Law & Order — who had to intervene and save her life. Jerry Orbach was not about to let desperate women suffer, nor was he about to let his daughter hang out with a dude who’s down with back-alley abortions. Jerry Orbach died in 2004. Who will save Oklahoma now?
Story of Women (1988)
Marie, a mother struggling to survive and provide for her children in Nazi-occupied France, performs an abortion for her neighbor, who is unable to provide for more kids in wartime. The procedure is successful and Marie makes it into a veritable business, servicing the women of her community in need of family-planning options. For about 10 minutes, everyone is almost happy, as they are able to operate through Marie as self-determining actors, choosing the best life possible from within the drudgery and misery of their wartime surroundings. And then the Nazi-backed Vichy government passes laws declaring abortion to be treason. Sound familiar? Marie gets arrested, then guillotined, and everyone goes back to being miserable.
Vera Drake (2004)
Imelda Staunton did not lose an Oscar for this bullshit, Oklahoma! In this working-class parable from British filmmaker Mike Leigh, back-alley abortionist Vera Drake didn’t even get paid for performing the procedures. Instead, she did it as a charity, because abortion is a vital public service that allows women to maintain control of their lives and bodies. I dare you not to cry at the film’s conclusion, as Vera is sentenced to prison for two and a half years — about the same sentence as Oklahoma has proposed for actual licensed doctors today.
4 Weeks, 3 Months, 2 Days (2007)
In every movie on this list, the road to a viable procedure is arduous and dangerous, but even in the present company ... y’all ... these Romanian ‘80s ladies go THROUGH IT for this abortion. Găbița is pregnant and convinces her friend Otilia to accompany her through the procedure. Otilia borrows money from her boyfriend to cover the costs, but both women are swindled by the abortionist into paying extra, first in money, and then in sex. Găbița makes it through the operation alive, but as a special bonus to their wonderful night, the two friends have to dispose of the fetus themselves. I can picture the Oklahoma state motto now: “Like Romania in the ‘80s, but with more tornadoes!”
Revolutionary Road (2008)
No, this is not a good movie. Leo and Kate are acting at least 14 times as hard as they did in Titanic and it’s still not a good movie. But the lawmakers of Oklahoma don’t deserve Leo and Kate at their second-worst, and they certainly don’t deserve Leo and Kate at their best, so they should have to watch this: Kate and Leo at their actual worst and also their shoutiest. Kate dies after performing a coat-hanger abortion on herself. As of yesterday, that’s what the Oklahoma state legislature would call a happy ending.