Monday, May 4, 2009

Unsung Heroes

So, yesterday's blog entry about Leila got me thinking about a film I recently watched called "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days." The film takes place around 1987 in Romania, during the last days of Ceausescu's totalitarian regime. Abortion was still illegal, but it was not uncommon; not dislike the situation world-wide whenever abortion is illegal. The story is about two roommates in university. One is pregnant (Gabita) and the other (Otilia) is there to help her in any way possible to ensure her friend's abortion procedure is completed.

Because abortion was illegal, Gabita + Otilia had to jump through many hoops to obtain, basically, a black market abortion. Otilia never once winces or complains about borrowing money to help her friend pay for the abortion or helping to secure a hotel room where it can be performed. It's a dark film, not because it's about abortion, but because of what the two young women endure and struggle with in order to get, with absolute determination, the abortion itself. The film is about determination, spirit, and friendship...and less so about abortion; whatever your views about abortion were prior to watching the film, they'd still be firmly intact afterwards.

I don't mean to write a critique of this brilliant film; what I wanted to say is that I wished our Leila had an Otilia. Otilia never stops being the steadfast friend, never judges Gabita, is there for her, and does the unthinkable for her: she "agrees" even, to have sex with the horrible man that "performs" the illegal abortion so that Gabita can have one since they didn't have enough money to pay. Leila needed an Otilia. We all need an Otilia.

Fine, we don't live in a communist or totalitarian society and abortion isn't illegal. Women aren't going to come across a slimely, disgusting man who extorts sex for an abortion; but women DO have to navigate through borrowing as much money as possible for an abortion. They have to navigate trying to find a facility to go, a place where they won't be judged (like at Leila's hospital) since 87% of counties in the USA lack an abortion provider. Women have to jump through hoops to organize travel, organize the people in their lives, their jobs - nearly everything - to have an abortion. So, when it's hard, when it takes a lot of energy - especially when you don't have much of it because you're puking in the toilet every 20 minutes - it's good to have an Otilia. I wish for all the women we see to have a friend who does everything they can, without judgment, without flinching, to see their girlfriend/sister/niece/granddaughter/daughter is able to obtain her legal abortion.


  1. Re: Communist countries and abortion

    To prevent the typecasting of Communist/Socialist countries as backwaters, just want to remind the masses that newly-acknowledged Cuba has had abortion at-request for over 40 years; abortion was a prime method of birth control in the former Soviet Union; and China's one-child policy (though debatable on its own moral/ethical grounds) has made abortion a virtual necessity. Communist and Socialist countries have, historically and presently, had a much more liberal track record surrounding abortion than even our nifty fifty. Just food for thought.

    That said, wonderful post :)

  2. What a beautiful post! Such a great transition from my post from yesterday. And so true, everyone needs an Otilia. Leila's experience probably would have been very different if she had her Otilia there with her. Everyone needs an advocate!

  3. thanks for mentioning that, anti-anti, you're quite correct. (though in fact i think you're highlighting an overall deficiency in the word "liberal" to describe abortion availability. after all, if people aren't free to bear children, that is a loss of liberty too. in other words, i love being pro-woman and pro-choice.) i'm of the opinion that women's bodies are constantly exploited as a tool for power, whether via limiting or promoting population growth or anything else, by governments on all points of the spectrum.

    there's also this:
    Women aren't going to come across a slimely, disgusting man who extorts sex for an abortioneven in the states they used to, and i wouldn't be surprised if sometimes they still do, if they are forced to seek out someone who is operating outside of the oversight of a governing medical body i.e. licensing board. like who knows what one might resort to in a state like wyoming or mississippi where licensed providers are so scarce...

  4. Oh, this is such a lovely thought. You're so right, about a girl.

    Oh my, you have gotten me in a reminiscing mood about the Otilias I've seen, and now I want to write a whole post of my own about this, and about my favorite scene ever from the check-in window. We'll see.


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