When 17-year-old, Ivy League-bound Veronica Clarke discovers she’s pregnant, she doesn’t understand it. Statistically, it should be impossible since she and her boyfriend, Kevin, always used protection. But here’s the thing about statistics: If condoms were 100% effective, they wouldn’t need the statistic to begin with.
Turns out Kevin knew their protection had failed and neglected to tell her since he “looked it up” and apparently, it’s “really hard” to get pregnant. So, he decided to wait and see what happened.
Veronica feels betrayed. It’s not like she had a whole lot of faith in Kevin to begin with, but knowing that he lied about something so important, she simply can’t spend the rest of her life with him (especially since part of the reason he didn’t tell her was because he thought a baby together would convince her to stay in Missouri with him rather than go to Brown University).
Veronica doesn’t want to turn to her ultra-conservative mom either. When her big sis found herself in the same situation, she had her baby. And Veronica doesn’t want to feel pressured to do the same.
But in order to get the “procedure,” as she calls it, she needs parental consent. Unless, of course, she can somehow get to Albuquerque, New Mexico (the nearest clinic that provides abortions to minors without parental consent).
So, she enlists the help of Bailey Butler, her ex-best friend whom she hasn’t spoken to in four years. Bailey may not be her favorite person in the world, but she’s not a gossip (unlike her other friends).
And more importantly, she has a car.
Veronica and Bailey grew apart due to several misunderstandings (not to mention unspoken feelings of hurt and anger) after Bailey’s parents got divorced. However, coming together for a cross-country road trip reminds the girls that they still enjoy the same things and actually get along pretty well. And although there are still some arguments along the way, the girls finally have a heart-to-heart and put aside the conflicts of the past, reinstating their friendship and learning how to stand up for each other.
Bailey tells Veronica that even though being pregnant is scary, everything will be OK. Later, when Veronica tells her mom about the abortion she eventually has, Veronica expresses her fear that her mom will hate her. But her mom responds with gentleness instead, telling Veronica that even though she doesn’t agree with or understand her daughter’s choice, she loves her unconditionally.
Although both girls initially lie to their moms about where they are going and why, both eventually come clean and ask for help from their parents in order to get home safely (although arguably, this was a choice they could have made much sooner).
When Bailey’s dad expresses that he never wanted kids to begin with, Veronica defends her friend, listing all of the things that make Bailey unique and saying that her dad is missing out by not getting to know her better.
A conservative Christian couple offers to drive the girls to Albuquerque (which Veronica calls a “godsend”). They say grace before eating and have several crosses hanging in their home. (The wife also sports a cross necklace.) But it soon becomes clear that they’re extreme in their beliefs—particularly in their pro-life stance—and after failing to convince Veronica that her baby is a “miracle of life” from God, they chase the girls into the desert in an attempt to stop them from going through with the abortion.
Veronica’s parents are also very conservative Christians (Bailey calls them “Jesus freaks”), and we see a picture of the Pope in their home as well as several crosses. A giant cross is seen on the side of the road. A billboard states a message from God that marriage is between one man and one woman.
We see a few snapshots of Veronica and Kevin having sex (though nothing critical is seen since the shots focus on condom wrappers to show that they used protection). In another scene, Kevin kisses Veronica on her cheek.
Two girls kiss a couple of times. Bailey says that she hid her lesbianism because she didn’t want to be gossiped about at church and school. She also talks about masturbation.
We see a teenage girl wrapped in a towel. We also see her using the toilet (her underwear is visible). A billboard advertises a strip club with 18-year-old women. Some girls wear shirts showing their midriffs. A girl is told that she attracts “a lot of male attention.” A boy is told to zip his fly. We hear that Veronica’s older sister was also a teenage mom. A man grabs an informational pamphlet about STDs.
Veronica’s abortion, while not graphic, is still pretty detailed as we see snapshots of the process while a nurse calmly explains it. And while this montage appears peaceful (Veronica chooses to be asleep for the procedure and a nurse holds her hand while the anesthesia is administered), it can’t be denied that the wand that removes the fetus is actually taking a human life. It should also be noted that Veronica is told that she doesn’t have to look at the monitor during her ultrasound (which, though not seen on screen, would have shown her preborn child).
The girls are hit by an RV during a car chase and eventually decide to drive the car off a cliff, jumping out of the vehicle just in time to avoid crashing. They are scraped up and bruised by this but otherwise unharmed.
A man is tased. A woman points a shotgun at a Kevin. Bailey tells Veronica not to tase pro-life protesters outside of the abortion clinic. Someone threatens to turn the girls into a “human centipede.” The girls drive over cow bones.
We hear the f-word once and the s-word six times. “H—” is used 10 times, and there are one to two uses each of “d–n,” “p-ss,” “b–ch,” “a–” and “a–hole.” God’s name is misused 15 times (once paired with “d–n”), and Jesus’ name is misused twice. We hear a crude reference to male genitals. Someone makes a crude hand gesture.
Several teens drink beer (though Veronica pointedly doesn’t participate). Bailey opens and sniffs a bottle of alcohol in a limo, but it is unclear whether she drinks any. We hear about a 14-year-old drinking an entire bottle of amaretto. Bailey talks about smoking marijuana. Someone mentions a classmate getting busted with a “locker full of Adderall.” Someone jokes about holding up a liquor store.
Although Veronica realizes that she could have gone to her mom all along with her pregnancy, she chose not to because she didn’t want to be pressured into having the baby. Veronica lies to her about where she is going for the weekend and never actually talks to a trusted adult about what is happening until after she has already had an abortion. Veronica claims that she is relieved and has no regrets about her decision; her casual attitude, combined with the fact that Veronica’s a likeable and relatable young woman, could easily influence real-world teens who are in similar situations to imitate her decision to terminate her pregnancy through abortion.
When Veronica tells Kevin about being pregnant, he is ecstatic. He wants to marry her and help take care of the baby. And while this appears to be very sweet and positive, it’s actually all a façade. For starters, Kevin didn’t tell Veronica when their birth control method failed. (If he had, she says she would have taken a morning-after pill instead of getting an abortion.) He stalks her location using an app on his phone and continues to try to convince her to keep their baby (which again, seems like a positive thing, but keep reading).
After Kevin finally catches up to her in Albuquerque, it’s revealed that he doesn’t care about the baby at all. He says he supports her decision to have an abortion and he just hoped the baby would convince her to marry him and give up her dreams of attending an Ivy League school. So, when Veronica instead breaks up with him, he threatens to tell their whole school that she was pregnant.
Bailey fails to tell Veronica that the car they are driving isn’t actually hers but rather her mom’s boyfriend’s. As a result, the car gets reported as stolen (since she also failed to ask him for permission to borrow it), and the girls nearly get arrested by state troopers.
When Bailey’s parents divorced, the transition was rough on her, largely because her dad stopped talking to her. It’s later revealed that he never wanted children, he just wanted to be married to her mom (not unlike how Kevin feels about Veronica). So when their marriage started having troubles, he began to resent and blame his daughter.
Veronica posts fake happy pictures on social media throughout the weekend so that people will think she’s just doing “selfcare” and leave her alone. She also points out that it looks good to colleges, but Bailey calls her out for lying.
We see urine in a toilet and on a pregnancy test. People gossip about who might be pregnant and comment on the size of a girl’s stomach. Someone says that a fetus isn’t a baby yet. A woman supports Veronica’s decision to have an abortion after witnessing Kevin’s stalker behavior. A man also supports her decision because he resents the government regulating people’s bodies. Veronica gets angry when a man spreads the “falsehood” about women not being able to get pregnant again after having an abortion.
We see a girl throw up and later hear about another girl vomiting on a birthday cake. A girl admits to skipping class. A woman bails out on girl-time with her daughter to hang out with her boyfriend. Several teens pile into the bed of a truck without seatbelts.
Getting an abortion, according to Veronica, should be as simple as walking down the street to a clinic, signing in and walking back out again once it’s done. But it’s not.
She and Bailey have to drive 996 miles to find a clinic that will serve her. They fend off state troopers, get kidnapped by religious extremists and get stalked all the way to New Mexico by Kevin. All of that drama leads Veronica to ask, “Why do I need parental consent to have an abortion, but not to actually birth a human child?”
Of course, the truth is that Veronica could have avoided all of that drama if she had simply talked to her mom—who, while not agreeing with Veronica’s choice, loves her daughter unconditionally and at least seems prepared to help her.
In addition, Unpregnant’s unapologetically pro-abortion stance isn’t the only negative content in the movie. Cursing (including a lone f-word) is pretty frequent. There are some brief (though not graphic) depictions of teenagers having sex. We learn that Bailey likes girls (and later see her kiss another girl). And we witness a father who abandons his family.
I’d like to give this film credit for showing two strong young women who mend their broken friendship, accept and love each other for who they are, and forgive incidents from the past. However, the film’s depiction of “Jesus freak,” pro-life supporters literally kidnapping the girls, chasing them down in an ultrasound-equipped RV, and then causing them to drive off a cliff, Thelma and Louise style (though nobody is harmed) reveals the film’s intent to mock and humiliate Christians along the way.
Nor does the film deal deeply with the deep emotional difficulties related to choosing an abortion. In this story, abortion is played off as something that should be normal and simple—something people can make jokes about. And at one point, the girls literally scream with glee that they are gay and pregnant and getting an abortion.
When Veronica finally makes it to Albuquerque, she’s verbally walked through the “procedure,” and it’s played out on screen calmly—almost like a sick child finally receiving the miracle cure to whatever ailment they’ve been suffering through. Veronica is “relieved,” and she returns home.
Unpregnant would have us believe that abortion is something to be celebrated, not mourned. Its characters may be disarmingly sympathetic and likeable onscreen. But the film’s lighthearted vibe treats the moral tragedy of abortion as a joke it wants viewers—and especially impressionable teen girls—to laugh at.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.