Photo by Phil Dragesh

Illegal Abortions Onscreen: Depictions of a Pre-‘Roe’ World

January 21, 2016
(Photo credit: Phil Dragesh)

January 22 marks 43 years since the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion in the United States. Prior to Roe, many people sought abortions from illegal providers, trained or untrained, who offered the service in secret.

In the generation since Roe was decided, some advocates have blamed young people’s complacency around abortion on fleeting historical memory. While we actively, emphatically dispute these claims of complacency, we acknowledge that—for some people in our generation—the reality of illegal abortion is, and hopefully will always be, secondhand. This makes listening to real women’s experiences with illegal abortion especially important.

It is in this context, and in honor of Roe, that we are providing several films with breathtaking performances that portray illegal abortion. While research has shown these abortion plot lines deviate from accuracy in important ways, we still recognize their potential to tell stories that allow the viewer to better understand, acknowledge, and remember the world before legal abortion.

You can watch these films to reflect on how far we’ve come, or on how far we still must go in the fight for abortion access. (And yes, there are spoilers below!)


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