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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Those who have been in the desert less than 15 years or so don’t remember when the anniversary of Roe v. Wade prompted anti-abortion and pro-choice counter-demonstrations along a major intersection in Palm Desert every year. Or the 1992 Desert Lights for Choice candlelight vigil along Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs, when pro-choice supporters lined up three deep from Tahquitz Canyon Way to Alejo Road. Or the besieged abortion clinic in Palm Desert where local activists walked women through shouting protesters and helped keep the doors open.

Many of us have become blasé about the right to decide for oneself whether and when to birth a child. Some 42 years after the Supreme Court decision in Roe, it seems unthinkable that the constitutional right to own your own body, including whether to end an unwanted or problem pregnancy, could be revoked. Statistics indicate that about 50 percent of women will at some point in their lives experience an unwanted pregnancy, and one in three American women will have an abortion by age 45.

I was 17, single and pregnant, before Roe. I was given three choices: Go into a home for unwed mothers and get rid of the baby; go to a sanitarium and get my head shrunk; or marry the man involved, leave him immediately, and then be allowed to come home. I chose the head-shrinking and gave the baby up for adoption.

My experience was not unique. In high school, some girls “went to visit their aunt” for a while, unable to stay in school if pregnant. Many of my girlfriends got married quickly after getting pregnant. Some had illegal abortions. Some opted for adoption and spent their lives wondering, as I did, whether the decision had really been the right one for the child.

After Roe, I once again found myself facing the choice of ending an unwanted pregnancy, based on failed contraception. That time—already divorced and raising twins on my own—I opted to terminate the pregnancy. I have never doubted that it was the right decision for me at the time.

I was reminded of all that at the screening of a movie, Obvious Child, presented by Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, the Desert Stonewall Democrats and the Tolerance Education Center in Rancho Mirage on this year’s Roe anniversary. About 60 people saw this movie, which follows a feisty young woman struggling with how to deal with an unplanned, unexpected and unwanted pregnancy.

Before the film, Elizabeth Romero, local director of community and public relations for Planned Parenthood, introduced the co-sponsors. Ruth Debra, president of Desert Stonewall, unexpectedly walked up on the stage, took the mic—and spoke publicly for the first time about her own experience with illegal abortion.

It was a heartfelt and intensely personal statement. “No one should EVER have to go through what I did,” she said.

The film is not going to win any Oscars, and some in the audience were uncomfortable with the coarse language. However, it does explore how difficult it can be to decide whether to have an abortion, and shows the kind of support any woman needs while going through the experience. I admit to tears when the young woman in the film finally tells her mother, who then shares her own story of an abortion at 17.

I finally told my mother when I realized she had begun advocating for pro-choice policies and would be able to understand. She confided to me, before her recent death, that her greatest regret was that she didn’t take a stand vis-à-vis my father so that I might not have needed to give up my first-born son. (My son and I were happily reunited about 10 years ago—but not all such stories end well.)

Life is complicated. Pro-choice advocates need to acknowledge that there are too many unwanted pregnancies, and that what is being aborted is, in fact, living human tissue. We all need to support comprehensive sex education in the schools, and men need to educate boys about their role in all of this. Contraception and prevention are not exclusively the responsibility of women, but gestating that fetus is.

Anti-abortion advocates need to recognize that if abortion is once again made illegal, it won’t stop abortion—it will just take us back to when women resorted to any means necessary to address the problem, and all too often died as a result. How “pro-life” can you be if you’re willing to sacrifice women’s lives?

Republican leaders, after their recent takeover of Congress, have talked about the need to prove they can govern, not just oppose, and to appeal to women voters, especially in light of Gallup’s findings that in every category—single women, married women, divorced women—the political gender gap is real and persistent. Yet one of the first things the House did was try to push through the so-called Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would criminalize abortion after 20 weeks—regardless of reason (assuming a woman should have to give a reason). They also wanted to reclassify what constitutes rape as an exception, a move that went too far even for Republican female members of the House, who pointed out the vote “could threaten the party’s efforts to reach out to women and young people” who clearly do not support such restrictions.

Pregnancy is not a punishment, whether it happens to an underage young woman preyed upon by an older man, or a prostitute, or a young wife expected to push out a baby per year, or an older woman who cannot afford another child, or one who got pregnant because she didn’t insist on contraception, or a woman wanting to escape an abusive relationship, or one who finds out her wanted fetus has catastrophic deficiencies and that a continued pregnancy may mean she can never again have children—or for any other reason particular to each woman’s life.

If you don’t support abortion, don’t choose to have one. But if you are one of the many women who has made that difficult choice or supported another in that choice, heed the words of Katha Pollitt, a feminist activist and writer, who recently wrote: “Why are we so afraid to talk about it—or to acknowledge that our lives would have been so much less than we hoped for without it? Why are we pressured to feel that we should regret our choice, and that there's something wrong with us if we don't?”

In a new play, Out of Silence, produced by the 1 in 3 Campaign, one character says, “I, too, had an abortion that I do not regret. Sometimes I think that I should feel remorse or shame, but I don't. Still, I don't talk about it with anyone."

Own your own history. Share your stories. You’ve done nothing to be ashamed of.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Lorne Michaels has a tendency to fire some great women after only one season of Saturday Night Live. He fired the promising Noël Wells after last season, and the funny Michaela Watkins and Casey Wilson in recent years. Thankfully, both Watkins and Wilson have gone on to decent post-SNL careers.

Of all of the female firings in recent years, none was more of an injustice than the letting-go of Jenny Slate. Slate, in her debut episode, dropped an F-bomb. It appears she was never really forgiven for the mistake, although she did make it through the season.

Now Slate has come roaring back with Obvious Child, a funny and strikingly honest film about a woman seeking an abortion. Slate plays standup comic Donna Stern, a woman who will say anything onstage for a laugh. After a breakup, she meets the charming Max (Jake Lacy), and they have a one-night stand.

Soon thereafter, Donna discovers she is pregnant. She immediately decides on an abortion, while the unknowing Max is just trying to get a second date. Everything comes to a head—and it’s all handled in a very sweet and honest way.

Slate is both funny and intense in this film, showing that she has major dramatic chops, like her SNL cohorts Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader demonstrated in the recent The Skeleton Twins. It’s a movie that should get her a lot of future work—and remove the sting of Michaels giving her the ax.

Special Features: Slate sits down with her writer and director for a commentary. There are also some extended scenes, a documentary and the short film on which the movie is based.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Bad Judge, A to Z (Thursday, Oct. 2, NBC), series debuts: On second viewing, The Only TV Column That Matters™ has revised its assessment of Bad Judge: Kate Walsh is still great as a party-animal judge, but this sitcom is an underdeveloped mess, even compared to NBC’s own Mysteries of Laura, the fall TV season’s designated Underdeveloped Mess. With better writers and a home on cable (Walsh’s smart, wicked comic streak would kill on FX or Showtime), Bad Judge could have been a contender. (Scroll down to see the trailer.) Rom-com A to Z, on the other hand, is more focused and on-point with the network’s recent Less Weird/More Sweet comedy mandate. Plus, Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother’s mother) and Ben Feldman (Mad Men’s Ginsberg) have an easy, if somewhat vanilla, chemistry. Only one of these shows is likely to make it out of October alive—guess which?

Gracepoint (Thursday, Oct. 2, Fox), series debut: Do you like the British crime series Broadchurch, but wish it were more ’Merican and dull? Here’s Gracepoint, with Broadchurch star David Tennant reprising his detective role with questionable haircut 2.0 and a faint air of, “Haven’t I already done this?” Joining him is Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn, and the pair will work a single murder case for 10 episodes—like The Killing, but with a (promised) conclusion. Tennant and Gunn work the dialogue and trench coats effectively, but there’s about as much reason for Gracepoint to exist as any subsequent season of, well, The Killing.

Mulaney (Sunday, Oct. 5, Fox), series debut: It’s already out there that Mulaney is the worst new sitcom of the season, but the question was posed to my TV Tan podcast (available on iTunes and Stitcher, kids) recently: Is it worth hate-watching, or at least a drinking game? My theory is that quality hate-watching requires at least one redeeming element in a show, something not-eye-gougingly-heinous on which to focus. In Mulaney’s case, that would be ex-Saturday Night Live player Nasim Pedrad, who must have paid someone off to the get the only funny lines in the pilot (though the cranked-to-11 laugh track begs you to believe that it’s all funny). As for a drinking game, just take a shot every time star John Mulaney, who possesses all of the acting skill of a young Seinfeld, recites a cue card like it’s a Chinese takeout menu; tomorrow morning, you won’t remember this ever happened.

Homeland (Sunday, Oct. 5, Showtime), two-hour season premiere: It’s now The Carrie Mathison Show (iffy idea, Showtime), as our precarious heroine is deployed to the Middle East. The first hour of Homeland’s Season 4 premiere doesn’t offer much hope for a post-Brody future; it’s a deadly dull slog of exposition and bad jazz livened up only by the sight of guest star Corey Stoll free of his hilarious wig from The Strain. The second hour makes a better case for Claire Danes carrying the series—if you make it that far.

The Flash (Tuesday, Oct. 7, The CW), series debut: Fox’s Gotham has all the marketing muscle, but this high-gloss Arrow spin-off is the season’s most comic-booky series of the DC Comics wave. The Flash, about Central City CSI investigator-turned-Fastest Man Alive Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), is closer to the early years of Smallville than the dark and growly Arrow; even though there’s some darkness in his past, nerdy Barry is having more fun here than broody Oliver Queen is back in Starling City. At the very least, it’s better than CBS’ 1990 attempt at a Flash TV series, back when televisions were square, and the best Marvel Comics movie was Howard the Duck (!).


DVD ROUNDUP FOR OCT. 7!

Bates Motel: Season 2

As Norman (Freddie Highmore) becomes weirder and more blackout-y, Norma (Vera Farmiga) makes new allies to save the motel, and Dylan (Max Thieriot) gets deeper into the local drug trade. White Pine Bay really does have it all. (Universal)

Edge of Tomorrow

Actually re-titled Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow, not that anyone should need to be tricked into watching this movie about alien-fighter Tom Cruise being killed over and over again. Good sci-fi action flick, dumb name. (Warner Bros.)

A Million Ways to Die in the West

Seth MacFarlane directs, co-writes and plays Albert, a farmer who falls for a woman (Charlize Theron) who teaches him how to be a gunslinger, thus pissing off her outlaw husband (Liam Neeson). More plot than a Family Guy episode. (Universal)

Obvious Child

When struggling Brooklyn comedian Donna (Jenny Slate) finds herself jobless, dumped and pregnant, she decides to get an abortion on Valentine’s Day—now that’s comedy! More bodily function jokes than a Family Guy episode. (Lionsgate)

Rick and Morty: Season 1

Boozehound scientist Rick (the voice of Justin Roiland) takes his nephew Morty (also Roiland) on adventures into other dimensions, few of which end well—hence, the best new Adult Swim cartoon in years, courtesy of Community creator Dan Harmon. (Warner Bros.)

More New DVD Releases (Oct. 7)

American Horror Story: Season 3, The Following: Season 2, Hemlock Grove: Season 1, Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, Million Dollar Arm, Psych: The Complete Series, Sharknado 2: The Second One, Vikings: Season 2.

Published in TV