“Abortion is not the go-to gag for a laugh,” I wrote last year in what I thought was an edge-pushing issue of Our Truths-Nuestras Verdades, Exhale’s bilingual abortion zine. After past issues on such heady topics as stigma, family, pregnancy and feelings about the fetus, Exhale decided it was time to branch out. We chose humor.
At the time, we had been laughing about, “smashmortion,” kind of, and had laughed, maybe, with Sarah Silverman. We didn’t imagine a censored Family Guy episode or that Cartman would fall in love with abortion.
I thought it was safe to say that abortion was not the center of very many jokes. I am here to say: I was wrong.
Not only is abortion funny, it is quickly becoming the new go-to-gag for a laugh.
And, herein lies the problem. Abortion humor, like abortion politics, seems to have nothing to do with the actual women who have had them. It’s like the weird dancing baby of Ally McBeal or Tom Delay shaking his rump on Dancing with the Stars. Abortion humor feels like a very strange, alternate universe where it’s normal to have a pet robot and drink your food.
Abortion humor treats abortion as if it’s something you buy at the seedy store with blacked out windows at the end of the dark ally and carried stealthily home only for you to hide it in the back of your pantry beside your secret stash of chocolate and vodka, hoping that no one will ever find it and know its yours.
But that’s not abortion. Abortion is an often emotional experience that involves a physically invasive medical procedure that happens inside a woman’s body and which, if done correctly, removes a growing fetus that would otherwise become a baby.
Abortion is not that funny. But, the women who have them certainly can be!
In our Humor issue, we did not want to make abortion something to laugh at. We wanted to find out what made women laugh about their own experiences. We wanted to know what they found funny.
A woman thought it was funny that after telling her boyfriend she was pregnant, he said: “Man, I didn’t really think I could get anyone pregnant because I’ve done so many drugs.” Another woman laughed that while she was waiting nervously in stirrups for her procedure to begin, a nurse came in and said: “your socks match your eyes.” When she founded out that after her abortion that her “dude wanted a receipt,” a woman found humor in the ridiculous.
Instead of abortion, Our Truths-Nuestras Verdades made women’s voices and stories the centerpiece of abortion humor. We weren’t laughing at them. We are still laughing with them.
But next time, I’m going to use all the money we spent on printing and mailing to go after Chelsea Handler or Margaret Cho and entice them with cookies (or sex toys) in exchange for a Funny or Die abortion video.
That should be really funny.