The rising wave of abortion bans in America has prompted an urgent global conversation, but how can romantic comedy books positively contribute? This author has one suggestion that could help…
You only need to read The Handmaid’s Tale and The Farm to realise the importance of discussing women’s reproductive rights in literature - but what about the easier, more light-hearted reads? Just because a book isn’t intended to have a strong political message, or is written for whizzing through on a beach holiday, doesn’t mean that it should completely avoid the issues faced by women everyday - right?
Romantic comedy author Liz Lincoln, who writes such books, certainly thinks so.
In fact, Lincoln has urged the publishing industry to include abortion stories in more romance novels to help promote a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body. Her message came during the week that saw abortion became illegal – in nearly all cases - in Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky and Mississippi. Over 2.5 thousand Twitter users have supported her plea.
Lincoln stared the conversation on Twitter, writing: “Romancelandia, we need to start putting abortion in our books. As an alternative to marrying virtual strangers after a surprise pregnancy. As a part of character backstory. As a thing lots of people experience. We can help normalise it and we should have sooner but we have to now.”
Fellow writers were quick to agree with Lincoln’s comments, with one pointing out that the hard part is getting publishers to stop worrying about losing readers.
“I worry that unpublished authors like myself trying to break into the industry are discouraged from including anything that might make their novel a hard sell, while published authors are worried about losing readers,” She wrote. “We all need to push to normalise choice.”
Lincoln supported this point, but said it is no reason to not include abortion in stories, adding: “If my readers can’t handle it, their loss. I’ll gain new readers because of it. Yes, you’re told to water down new books to make them marketable but at the end of the day, you have to tell the story you want. Books and art have always been vehicles for social messages.”
She continued: “The advice to not get political is terrible advice. And only given by people in non-marginalised spaces who can afford not to be political.”
One Twitter user then offered a reader’s perspective, adding: “As a reader I have to say please get political. Our lives are political. I find it incredibly tone deaf when characters exist in a vacuum anymore. I can’t relate to that at this point. I do need light reads but I’ve read books that still manage to weave it in and I NEED that.”
Lincoln responded: “I write rom coms. They are light. But they can still handle weighty issues. We NEED these weighty issues handled with a light touch. There’s a reason comedy news is so popular. We can’t handle so much weighty shit without comic relief.”
Or course, this isn’t a call to talk about abortion in all romance books. But, as nearly one in four women in America under the age of 45 have had an abortion, it’s time to start including it in the narratives of female characters.