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From DANGER to DIGNITY:
The Fight For Safe Abortion

 

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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.

Suggested Uses

  • • 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.

Transcription

Full script for From DANGER to DIGNITY - pdf file or Word doc

Reviews

"What characterizes From DANGER to DIGNITY from beginning to end is compassion. Beautifully made, thoughtfully structured, brilliantly narrated..."
SENIOR LIBRARIAN
Library of Congress

"An excellent overview. Highly recommended."
VIDEO LIBRARIAN

"A sterling documentary..."
BOOKLIST

"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."
ALFON PENALOZA
Ethos Fundación

"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."
LIZ CURRY
Whole Earth Review

Synopsis

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.

From DANGER to DIGNITY weaves together two parallel stories: the evolution of underground networks that helped women find safe abortions outside the law, and the intensive efforts by activists and lawmakers to decriminalize abortion through legislative and judicial channels. This film combines rare archival footage with interviews that document the courageous efforts of those who fought to break the silence, change the laws and end the shame which surrounded abortion when it was a crime.

Credits

Producers: Dorothy Fadiman, Beth Seltzer, and Daniel Meyers
Production team: Danielle Renfrew, Kristin Atwell, Nila Bogue
Executive Producer: Danny McGuire
Music: Erika Luckett
Produced with KTEH-TV (PBS)

Awards

EMMY AWARD of Television Arts & Sciences
GOLD HUGO Chicago International Film Festival
GOLD APPLE National Educational Film/Video Festival
BRONZE CHRIS COLUMBUS International Film/Video Festival
FEATURED SELECTION Seattle Human Rights Film Festival

Spanish Version

Del peligro a la dignidad (con subtítulos en español)