October Baby comes wrapped in the gauze of a teen romance/road trip movie, and its tagline, “Every Life Is Beautiful,” is vague enough that at first glance viewers might think this is a story about self-acceptance or coming of age. Such viewers would be in for a surprise, because the film’s actually a virulent pro-life tract about the survivor of a failed abortion who goes in search of her birth mother. Brothers Andrew and Jon Erwin direct October Baby, following in the footsteps of Sherwood Pictures, producers of the highly successful Christian-themed Facing The Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous (on which Jon worked as a second unit director). But this is no mere tale of redemption or reaffirming of faith; this is a film with an extreme agenda.
Rachel Hendrix, in her first starring role, plays a sheltered, petulant college student who’s struggled with health problems all her life, including asthma, hip surgeries, and seizures. When she collapses in the middle of the first performance of a school play, she spirals into a depression that leads to her learning that these issues all stem from her premature birth, that she was adopted after her biological mother abandoned her, having attempted, unsuccessfully, to abort her. “Why, God, do I feel unwanted? Why do I feel I have no right to exist?” she weeps, until her best friend Jason Burkey takes her on a road trip to Mobile to find the woman who gave her up. What follows is no less than a pro-life revenge fantasy (intercut with teen shenanigans that make Saved By the Bell look edgy) in which a would-be aborted fetus survives to adulthood in order to show up unannounced at the workplace of the woman who conceived her in order to demand an explanation.
October Baby is inspired by the story of pro-life activist Gianna Jessen, an actual abortion survivor, and it’s competently made, shot like an American Eagle commercial and featuring recognizable actors like John Schneider and Jasmine Guy as a former clinic nurse. This only makes its offensiveness more startling—it’s a film with the pretense of being about forgiveness that’s really about blame, when neither is justified. Strangers along the way lend their help to Hendrix, no one ever doubting her right to confront the woman who was wicked enough to want to go to school and have a career before starting a family. Most egregious of all is the film’s suggestion that late-term, edge-of-viability procedures are the norm and that abortion clinics are a horror show of maimed, discarded infants. (“There were things that happened there, terrible things, things they had me do,” Guy murmurs when telling her story.) This isn’t a movie; this is propaganda for the already converted.