From DANGER to DIGNITY:
The Fight For Safe Abortion
Dorothy's Making of
While I was making WHEN ABORTION WAS ILLEGAL, I learned about underground networks for women who were desperately seeking help, but who could not afford to travel abroad, nor pay for an after hours abortion from a medical doctor. I followed leads and found connections to several groups of committed people, who had worked clandestinely, and been actively involved in finding and providing safe affordable illegal abortions. These included a group of clergy who located providers and arranged for transportation, a group of women in Chicago (JANE) who performed thousands of safe procedures themselves and a passionate group of activists in California led by Pat Maginnis called the Society for Humane Abortion.
Once I began this research, I was introduced to dozens of courageous individuals, including doctors, who had been actively involved in providing safe care when abortion was illegal. A parallel search led me to people who had fought to enact legislation to make safe abortion legal, as well as those who focused on judicial decisions. The film culminates with the Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, after which abortions became legal in most situations.
• To educate young men and women who have no knowledge about the back alley days or the struggle to make abortion legal.
• To inspire action using this vivid portrayal of passionate humanitarian efforts by those who helped to provide access to safe abortion care, and also those who fought to make abortion legal.
• To support doctors, clinic workers and others devoting their lives to providing safe reproductive care today. Many of these people face severe harassment on a daily basis. This film reaffirms the value of their efforts.
"What characterizes From DANGER to DIGNITY from beginning to end is compassion. Beautifully made, thoughtfully structured, brilliantly narrated..."
Library of Congress
"An excellent overview. Highly recommended."
"A sterling documentary..."
"This is a fabulous documentary on the reality of abortion in the United States. Featuring critical interviews with people who were crucial in exposing the dangers of illegal abortions and fighting for its decriminalization, the film touches all main issues from a public policy standpoint. The footage is very illustrative and the argument is supported by well documented interviews of people from diverse backgrounds such as legislators, doctors, activists, women, men, clergy, culminating with the inspiring closing argument in Roe v. Wade. Locating the issue as a public health problem, the documentary fluently narrates the development of the civil and human rights movement, and how the issues surrounding abortion became public and a matter of public concern. A truly insightful and provocative reflection on the reality of abortion."
"I brought this video into a roomful of noisy friends. By the end of the opening sequence there was silence, punctuated by gasps and outbursts of encouragement, disbelief and horror. When it ended, a discussion broke out on the political and social implications of legal vs. illegal abortion, then and now.
In From DANGER to DIGNITY, women who underwent illegal abortions, or who attempted to abort themselves, tell their stories. Through interviews and archival footage doctors, clergy, legislators, and women of all backgrounds explain their involvement in the movement for safe abortion from 1961 until the 1971 Roe vs. Wade case. From DANGER to DIGNITY is beautifully documented, moving, thought-provoking, and horrific."
Whole Earth Review
Other films in the Series
CHOICE: Then & Now
From DANGER to DIGNITY: The Fight for Safe Abortion: Even though most abortions were illegal in the United States before 1973, they were still available. The outcome, however, often depended on a woman's financial situation. Many women who sought abortions risked their lives by going to practitioners who had little or no medical training. Hospital wards were filled with victims of unsafe procedures. There were some skilled physicians who agreed to terminate pregnancies for their wealthy private patients, charging thousands of dollars. A small number individuals - doctors, midwives, nurses and others . provided relatively safe, low-cost, humane but still illegal care.