A Thursday Interruption: Songs About Abortion

“Oasis” by Amanda Palmer. In a piece of HuffPo, Palmer writes:

The song is not a lecture… it’s a reflection, a character sketch. As I was walking over to the BBC the other day and my rep mentioned that they might not let me play “Oasis” on the air, I suggested that I might be allowed to play it if I just slowed it down and played it in a minor key. Think about it: if they heard the same lyrics against the backdrop of a very sad and lilting piano, maybe with some tear-jerking strings thrown in for good measure, would they take issue?

Imagine these lyrics to the tune of “Strange Fruit”, or “Yesterday”:

“When I got my abortion / I brought along my boyfriend / we got there an hour before the appointment / and outside the building / were all these annoying fundamentalist Christians / we tried to ignore them”…

Would this make radio happy? Maybe. It would be within a context they could rely on, feel safe in, write off. “Of course she’s sad! She had an abortion! Abortion is sad!”

“Brick” by Ben Folds Five includes a lovely piano riff.

Ani, as always, breaks it down.

Twice, in fact!

And then, the song that prompted this post:

Overall, I agree with Amanda Palmer. It’s an absolute trial to find pro-choice songs about abortion that are cheerful.


  1. says

    I didn’t know that’s what Brick was about! I was never quite sure WHAT it was about, though.

    An old classic I love that I personally think is about abortion is The Smiths’ “This Night Has Opened My Eyes.” It always read to me as an honest male perspective being changed as he realizes that abortion is not this hugely bad or hugely good thing, it just is what it is, and sometimes it’s the right decision.

    Ani is awesome!

    There’s a mini-series from Britain that I’ve meant to review for years. In it, there’s a tiny little nearly insignificant subplot: a woman finds out she’s pregnant, schedules and abortion, and has it later that day. There’s one little scene afterwards where she’s clearly processing her feelings, and they’re not all cheerful ones. But then she goes on with her work, and we never hear of it again. If that was made here, it would stir up a huge controversy with protests for presenting an abortion as something that doesn’t automatically wrack someone with remorse.

    It might be hard to find cheerful songs about it because in a society that (a) opts to create, through social inequality, so many reasons for women and girls to want/need abortions and then (b) treats them like shit for getting them, it’s an experience that’s generally going to be at least tinged with a lot of bad feelings. And given that a lot of people have died from abortions, again because our society is just bass-ackwards on equality, um, yeah.

  2. Gabriella says

    Jenn, there was this Brit series I stumbled upon (was just channel flipping, no idea what it’s called) but the plot for that episode was about a teenage girl who’d had a baby in secret with her teenage boyfriend. When their parents found out about it they were all ‘make them get married’ until the girl’s mum stepped in and said she couldn’t stand by and watch two lives get ruined by forcing them into an unhappy marriage (it wasn’t much of a relatonship to begin with, just two teenagers fooling around, hardly a good foundation for a livlong union) and subsitance living because they both lacked an education and the better jobs it would bring. In the end, the girl’s parents (mostly spearheaded by the mum, but the dad comes to see her reasoning) take on primary care of the baby. No, it wasn’t about abortion, but I loved the way they found a resolution that didn’t involve adoption or forcing two teenagers to be bound together in poverty for the rest of their lives, and it struck me that I could never see an American show tackling the same storyline with so little judgment against the teenagers – there’s initially shock and blame-throwing, fairly even against the boy and girl, but after things settle down the mum takes charge and is all ‘ok what’s the best way to resolve this’ – and what I thought to be the best possible solution given the scenario.

  3. facebook_patrick.mcgraw.7 says

    I’m reminded of the 90s show “Party of Five” where 16-year-old Julia became pregnant and was preparing to get an abortion. The inevitable miscarriage occurred (just before the appointment, of course).

    I was completely unsurprised to learn, years later, that the writers had intended her to go through with the abortion but the studio mandated a miscarriage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *