“Not pregnant”: born out of political rage

“Not Pregnant”

It was 2011, and writer Jenni Hendriks was in her car, crawling through Los Angeles traffic, when a news story on NPR angered her. South Dakota imposed a 72-hour waiting period on all residents seeking an abortion — and that was in a state, mind you, where there was only one clinic providing the service in the first place.

“I just thought these women are already traveling hundreds of miles to get access! I was super pissed,” Hendriks said. She called up her writing partner Ted Caplan and blurted out, “I know what we’re writing next! It’s a road trip – a road trip with your best friend.

And they did. This month, HarperTeen publishes her book Pregnant, the fresh and funny adventure tale of Missouri high school valedictorian Veronica, who becomes tied to the Ivy League when she becomes disastrously pregnant. Horrified that her life (and her perfect image) will be derailed, she chooses to secretly travel 994 miles to the closest place she can get a legal abortion without parental consent: at a clinic in Albuquerque, New York. -Mexico. To do this, she needs the help of Bailey, the turquoise-haired monster in the school’s combat boots, who just happens to be Veronica’s ex-best friend. On their way, odd couple Veronica and Bailey hilariously freak out from pawnshops to naked dives, cows, ferrets and Planned Parenthood protesters.

“We found there was an abortion desert in the middle of the country that went 1,000 miles in any direction,” Caplan said, “and we thought, okay, how do we highlight the absurdity of asking about these girls? We wanted to do something about it Thelma and Louise world, showing how big the world is when you’re young and going out and seeing it for the first time.

In fact, Caplan and Hendriks, who live in Los Angeles, took this road trip together before writing the book – and, if their recent article in Parade magazine is to be believed, engaged in stereo battles all the way, queuing her “depressing songs sung by whiny white people” and her opting for power ballads of Bad and hamilton.

Where they really ventured into uncharted territory was in writing and presenting this provocative story. “It’s a risky proposition,” Caplan said when Hendriks first pitched his idea. “We write comedies. How are we going to pull off an abortion…a road trip…a comedy?

The answer: carefully. While Pregnant is funny from start to finish, never flippant about it. “The idea,” Caplan said, “was to present a story that could reduce shame for young women, whether they had had an abortion, knew someone who had an abortion, or were thinking about having an abortion. “

Hendriks was raised in a conservative religious family and attended Catholic school for 16 years, including college. “I’m very familiar with the anti-choice message that’s presented in this environment,” she says.

For pro-choice folks like these authors, the political climate has become much more, uh, rage-provoking since they first crafted this story eight years ago. This year alone, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee passed extremely restrictive abortion laws, and last month Planned Parenthood had to withdraw from Title X – losing $60 million in annual funding – after that the Trump administration has banned participating clinics from offering abortions or referring patients for abortions. .

On a professional level, this news Pregnant more marketable, of course. On a personal level, it drives authors crazy. “We’re glad the book is relevant, and we’re glad to be part of the conversation, but…” Caplan says, breaking off with that I-don’t-recognize-my-country that’s a familiar part. of liberal conversations these days.

HBO Max begins filming Pregnant movie soon, with script by Caplan and Hendriks. It is expected to be released in fall 2020.

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