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"Abortion Democracy:" Feminist Film-Maker Inspires Us to Speak Out for Women


By Marcy Bloom, GIRE

Recently I had the opportunity to view the dynamic and thought-provoking film “Abortion Democracy: Poland/South Africa” by the talented German film-maker Sarah Diehl when it was screened at the University of Washington by that school’s chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice. Even for many of us who feel we are knowledgeable on domestic and international abortion rights and women’s health issues, this award-winning documentary was eye-opening.

The film skillfully and powerfully contrasts the differences in abortion policies and laws regulating abortions in two countries and describes their impact on the lives of women. “Abortion Democracy” reveals how the legal status of women is a direct result of the silencing--or the empowering--of women’s voices.  The message of the documentary serves to emphasize the critical need for safe abortion care and liberal abortion laws for women and girls everywhere. But it also illustrates a key and painful theme...the tragic paradox that the implementation of such laws may have a minimal impact on the actual accessibility of safe abortion care.

In Poland, one of the two countries profiled, abortion is illegal and legal abortions are virtually impossible to obtain. But illegal abortions are generally available--in fact, doctors even advertise in newspapers--although these procedures often occur in “bad settings.” Illegal abortions are also very expensive in Poland--yet another universal theme. Contrasted to South Africa, the other country that is spotlighted, abortion is legal but unavailable--particularly for black women--and women there actually have a much more difficult time obtaining information and services in public hospitals due to the ongoing effect of anti-choice language that reinforces the stigma of abortion. This contributes to the disrespectful and judgmental behavior of medical staff who refuse to perform or participate in safe abortion care.

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