The strongest moments of Obvious Child are actually Donna's weakest—when she curls up in her mom's bed after a misfire with Max; or when she sits cramped up in a cardboard box, staring into space while friend Nellie (Gaby Hoffmann, who really deserves more screen time) packs up non-imperialist books. Donna is not the hardened ideologue we might expect in a movie that treats abortion so casually. Her decision to have an abortion arises of functional need, not a surveyed moral landscape that concludes it would be the best, responsible decision at this point in her life. Instead, she's simply a young woman in a mess, making one bad, drunken decision, then making another decision that rectifies the first.
In this way, Obvious Child is the anti-Juno—the charming 2007 movie in which sardonic teenager (Ellen Page) has a baby after sleeping with friend Paulie Bleeker. While Juno was praised by many pro-life groups (including Christianity Today), the movie never actually makes an argument for the personhood or dignity of the unborn child. Instead, Juno's decision to have the baby is functional, a logical step that will benefit a couple who wants to adopt.
The same is true of Knocked Up, the crass 2007 Judd Apatow movie in which Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) moves forward with a pregnancy despite her mother's insistence she "take care of it" after sleeping with sweet stoner Ben Stone (Seth Rogen). There's not much ethical deliberation. "There was a slew of movies in 2007 which I enjoyed, but they all dealt with unplanned pregnancy with having the baby at the end," Robespierre told Salon. "And it wasn't the story that rang true to me or people that I knew." The director (who's working on a comedy about divorce) wanted to show that abortion doesn't have to "leave an emotional scar."
On such a contentious issue as abortion—which, it's worth repeating, has been legal in the United States for only 40 years—Robespierre might have been more overt in her aims: telling a story about corrupt pro-life activists, or kind abortion doctors who see their work as "community service," or a judge who carries the deciding vote on overturning Roe v. Wade.
Instead, Obvious Child tries to remain apolitical, following Donna Stern's personal growth and budding relationship with Max, rather than the abortion as such. The "procedure" is discussed openly only a few times, and the movie ends on a sweet note, with Donna and Max cuddled on a couch watching Gone with the Wind. (For a movie pitched as "honest" and "authentic," I do have to wonder how many women can realistically expect romance to blossom with the father after an abortion. The film's ending smelled an awful lot like more Hollywood "true love" claptrap.)