Drawn to Comics: “Not Funny Ha-Ha” Takes a Frank and Personal Look at Abortions

by rory midhani

by rory midhani

Abortion, the actual thing and not the Political Issue, is usually a pretty personal, touchy and difficult subject to write about, and so I initially struggled to write this column this week. I wanted to make sure that I handled the subject in the right way. I mean, I’m pretty sure I can safely say that we here at Autostraddle are pretty firmly in the pro-choice corner, but still, a comic book about abortion could have been a huge misfire. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that that’s exactly why Leah Hayes’ book Not Funny Ha-Ha: A Handbook for Something Hard is so important. It’s not only a beautifully-made and well-actualized book, but it’s also probably the most accessible and relaxed, while still being frank, discussion about abortion that I’ve ever seen.

Art by Leah Hayes

Art by Leah Hayes.

This book takes the reader on a journey along with two women, Mary and Lisa, who both got pregnant and who both have decided to get abortions. Lisa decides to get a surgical abortion, and Mary gets a medical one. It does a great job of talking about why each person might choose, or need to choose, each method and then going through the steps that it takes in order to get an abortion and the steps one should take as they go to the appointment and after they get the procedure done. While the book doesn’t go into too much detail showing the actual procedures, it does a really great job of showing what the day of the appointment and the days after will be like.

While it’s not a medical journal or step-by-step instruction manual of what happens when you get an abortion (and Hayes makes sure to remind the reader that she’s not a doctor and that asking a doctor any questions you have about your abortion is always a good idea), Not Funny Ha-Ha really is quite informative. It talks about what medications are used in a medical abortion, how long you can usually expect before you start and stop feeling the effects of those medications and a bunch of other really helpful and reassuring information that would help anyone who is about to go through the process or just wants to learn about it. It also covers similar information about surgical abortions using the other story in the book.

Art by Leah Hayes.

Art by Leah Hayes.

This book keeps on reassuring its reader that whatever reasons they have for getting an abortion or for doing it a certain way, whatever they’re feeling, whatever is going through their head, that’s fine; this is their body and their live and their decision. When it comes down to it, that’s the major message that I got from Not Funny Ha-Ha: no matter why you’re getting an abortion your reason is totally valid and you’re going to be okay. It feels like Hayes is giving you a reassuring hug and a warm cup of tea and then calmly talking you through what your next few days or weeks are going to be like.

Hayes’ illustrations work perfectly for this project. She’s able to make many of the scenes, like the ones after the women get their abortions, seem cozy and personal without crossing over to cutesy or cuddly. She’s able to give other pages the somber and human atmosphere that they need. Above all, she keeps the entire book grounded in her two main characters, making sure that we focus on them, their emotions and their bodies — exactly the things we should be focusing on when talking about abortion.

Art by Leah Hayes.

Art by Leah Hayes.

Overall, Not Funny Ha-Ha is a tender, educational and comforting look at a process that people are often afraid to talk about in such an open and non-judgmental way. It’s also got just the perfect amount of irreverence and lightness, which are pretty necessary when taking on a subject that can be so heavy. Is it weird to say that I think this would make a great graduation present? Or maybe a present for parents to give their children who could have abortions when they’re having “the talk” with them? No, I don’t think that’s weird; in fact, this book would make a pretty great gift to give anyone who might at some point have an abortion.

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The Wicked + The Divine #13 (Image)

Age of Apocalypse #2 (Marvel)

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Welcome to Drawn to Comics! From diary comics to superheroes, from webcomics to graphic novels – this is where we’ll be taking a look at comics by, featuring and for queer ladies. So whether you love to look at detailed personal accounts of other people’s lives, explore new and creative worlds, or you just love to see hot ladies in spandex, we’ve got something for you.

If you have a comic that you’d like to see me review, you can email me at mey [at] autostraddle [dot] com

Mey Valdivia Rude is a bisexual Latina trans woman living in Los Angeles. She's a writer, comic consultant and a trans activist. She's a bruja, a femme, a pop princess and she loves comic books, witches, dinosaurs and crying. She has a cat named Sawyer and a very successful twitter.

Mey has written 574 articles for us.

15 Comments

  1. I love the artwork! Beautiful illustrations with a unique look and style of their own, and the lettering is fantastic!
    Okay, I’ll turn off my inner Etsian now.

    Frankly I was taken aback by how unusual it seemed that the how and why of getting pregnant were so emphatically left out of the book. I am so used to this being an integral part of every single conversation on abortion I seem to have! The circumstances of getting pregnant are always referenced (well only if she was raped, etc), as well as the socioeconomic situation of the woman getting the abortion (what if she’s poor and raising half a dozen kids already). To have it stated so simply and clearly that these things don’t matter – and are also none of our business – was actually very refreshing. I am equally used to people feeling like they are very much allowed to tell women what to do or not to do with their bodies… all in all, I got the urge to read the book even though it is extremely unlikely I will ever be needing an abortion.

    Thank you for introducing this book to us!

  2. Also out this week that I’ll be buying are,

    Ms Marvel #17 which features a long awaited team up with Captain Marvel.

    The Spire #2 which features a lesbian lead character in Watch Commander Sha who also happens to be dating the younger sister of the city’s new baroness who doesn’t like Sha at all.

    Cluster #6. A sci-fi comic about a woman who kills her sister in an accident and is sentence to serve in the military on a far off planet.

    Bombshells #3 which will focus on Supergirl. The 2nd part was a bit of a letdown after the great first part (not bad, just not as good as the first issue with Kate Kane and Maggie Swayer). (This is out on Saturday and is digital only)

    I always recommend Darth Vader as well for Doctor Aphra. Issue #8 is out this week.

    Oh and I’m not getting this, but there is a limited edition hard cover version of Marceline and the Scream Queens out as well which has a lot of extras that weren’t in the original version.

  3. As someone who has had two medical abortions, I think this is awesome.
    Especially great for anyone who may have one, obvs, but I also feel that the more open/accessible this type of information/shared experience is, the more the culture of shame us removed. As soon as we start hiding things as a society, that’s when we start to make decisions out of fear (which seems like the very opposite of choice to me).

    Also, I am not a counselor or other medical professional, but I am totally happy to share any part of my experiences of medical abortions for anyone who would find that helpful.

    Thanks as always Mey!

    • I’ve also had an abortion. In my case, I went the medical route (with pills), but it didn’t work 100%,so I wound up having to get a surgical abortion. And the surgery was not scary like I thought it would be. I’m glad that a comic like this exists, because it is something that a lot of people have gone through, and it’s sounds like the comic does a great job. Thank you Snaelle, and I would also like to echo that if anyone has questions about my experience, I am able to share.

  4. This sounds like an awesome book. Thank you for telling me about it! Btw, maybe you should add a link to where you suggest people buy the book. (Seems to be cheaper on Amazon, but idk if that is as good for the cartoonist.)

  5. It’s so refreshing to be over here on AS, instead of on FB where certain members of my family keep posting stuff about Planned Parenthood folks being “murderers.”

    The law tells us abortion is not murder. Science tells us it’s not murder. Religion…does the Bible even say anything about abortion? Because I’ve never heard anyone actually reference any actual passage.

    There are times in my life where, had I become pregnant from a particular encounter, I believe I would have at least seriously considered abortion. But I also think that’s the trap we fall into when we debate abortion. Because: the abortion debate isn’t really about me.

    I’m white and middle-class and my family would support me financially and emotionally in whatever choice I made, so I’ve always had options. The people who really need abortion to stay legal and accessible in all fifty states are the women with fewer options and/or less support from family, their own finances, or what have you. Those women also need the other healthcare that PP provides (health care I’ve taken advantage of plenty of times when I was a student or uninsured).

    All sorts of women — every sort of woman — need access to affordable reproductive health care, including abortion services. But this weird slow squeezing off of available abortion services that state governments have done in the years since Roe v. Wade is hurting only the women who need this support the most.

    And all of THAT is what I would say to my cousin on FB if I thought it would do any good! So you all got to hear it instead, sorry 🙂

  6. Hey, my friend wrote Baba Yaga’s Assistant! She gave a really awesome talk about it last night (and will be in western Mass giving a similar talk tonight) and I bought her book and immediately devoured it. Smart female protagonist, Russian folklore, beautiful illustrations – 5/5, would buy again.

  7. My Aunt didn’t get me till I was 15, so instead of having an awkward talk about any sex things, she gave me a book, that had most of the things in it. Not because we weren’t close, we just didn’t have the tools to talk about all the things that needed talking about, and didn’t want to miss anything. Speaking from that perspective, this comic is a perfect thing to exist.

  8. I’ve read this magazine for a while now, funnily enough I found it while looking at a menstrual cup post. It’s funny and touching and times and while I may not agree with all that goes on here I do recognize it takes all people to make a world.

    That being said I see many, many opinions in terms of supporting abortion, and that is fine. But where are the dissenters? I disagree with abortion overall. I think every person has the right to do what x/s/he wants to to their body but I don’t think abortion counts. Maybe when a fetus is so small and just a mass of cells then…perhaps abortion might be not as reprehensible. But when a fetus can be taken out of the womb (not necessarily live without intervention for a long time) but can move and such then it becomes a person. If you have ever seen pieces of a baby that was cut up after an abortion or one the doctor accidentally delivered live and watched as it was left to die then you know what I mean.

    My motto is people have the right to do what they wish, when they wish, with who they wish as long as it does not harm others. Yes, a baby may be emotionally, mentally, or financially harmed by choosing to keep the baby but unless the person will die or be severly harmed then I don’t feel abortion should be an option.

    When you have sex you make a commitment, it should be practiced as safe as possible and you should accept the consequences. Abortions are many times just about convinence.

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