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The Work of DOROTHY FADIMAN

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WHEN ABORTION WAS ILLEGAL:
Untold Stories

 

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Making of

When I was a college student, I became unintentionally pregnant. I had no savings, no committed partner and my family was 3,000 miles away. I could neither find nor afford a skilled provider. Abortion was illegal in California in 1962, so I paid $600 cash to a stranger, a person whose face I never saw. I was blindfolded throughout the procedure. Soon afterward, I began to hemorrhage and ended up on the intensive care ward of Stanford hospital with a fever of 105 and septicemia, a blood infection that had killed so many women who risked the back alleys or aborted themselves. I kept my story to myself, and remained silent for thirty years.

In 1991, I realized that the Supreme Court could vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Most people had no idea what the dangers of the back alleys had been when abortion was illegal. So, I decided to make a documentary based on what I had lived through and survived, and what had happened to so many other women. This film became the first of three in the trilogy From the Back Alleys to the Supreme Court & Beyond.

Suggested Uses

• To inform people, especially young adults who have no memory of the back alley days, about the need for access to safe legal abortions
• To set the stage for a discussion of the evolution of women's reproductive rights leading to Roe v. Wade
• To screen before discussion of current legislative restrictions

Reviews

"Recommended viewing for physicians, medical students, residents, and anyone interested in understanding the controversial issue of abortion."
FERTILITY NEWS

"Its tone is quietly eloquent, never hysterical... a picture of long-remembered fear and last ditch desperation."
LITTLE ROCK FREE PRESS

"Creates the space for viewers to reach their own conclusions."
BERET STRONG, PH.D.
Perspective Magazine

"With riveting detail... eschewing the inflammatory rhetoric that often colors the abortion debate, Untold Stories nonetheless delivers a powerful argument."
MICHAEL FOX
The San Francisco Chronicle

"A 'must see' for health professionals who want to truly understand the effects of turning back the clock."
AMY LEVINE
Women's Resource Center

"Affectingly related stories...etch the climate of fear, pain, reprisal, and sometimes death that permeated a society outlawing abortion."
IRENE WOOD
Booklist

"This documentary series belongs in the lending library of every institution committed to social justice."
MARY RUTHSDOTTER
Program Director
National Women's History Project

"I am a male medical student at a very conservative medical school. I am extremely thankful for these films because they remind me why I wanted to be a physician — as long as I am alive, I will work so that women will always have freedom of choice.  These stories are my motivation and truly keep me going."
DEREK C. HARMAN
Medical Student

Synopsis

WHEN ABORTION WAS ILLEGAL: Untold Stories illuminates a largely undocumented era, from the end of the mid-19th century through the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973.

This Academy Award-nominated film features compelling first person accounts, which reveal the physical, legal, and emotional consequences during the era when abortion was a criminal act. Until recently, the era of illegal abortion had been a "sealed chapter" in U.S. women's history.

The aura of shame surrounding unwanted
pregnancies and abortion before Roe v.
Wade kept most women from ever admitting that they had had illegal abortions - an experience which many had faced, but about which few ever spoke.

Women suffering complications from back alley or self-induced abortions avoided admitting what they had done. As a result, many women died from untreated infections, some of these women hemorrhaged to death. Candid interviews reveal the tragedies, as well as the courage and heroism of a shrouded time. This poignant oral history weaves together the untold stories of these women with the work of individuals who risked arrest in order to help them.

Credits

Producer/Director: Dorothy Fadiman
Executive Producer: Danny McGuire
Camera/Editing: Daniel Meyers, Blake McHugh
Production Team: Daniel Meyers, Beth Seltzer
Additional editing: Nila Bogue, Lise Rubenstein
Music: Erika Luckett
Produced with KTEH-TV (PBS)

Transcription

Full script for WHEN ABORTION WAS ILLEGAL: Untold Stories - pdf or Word doc

Awards

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION Best Documentary Short Subject
GOLD MEDAL Corporation for Public Broadcasting
GOLD APPLE National Educational Film/Video Festival
BEST DOCUMENTARY Atlanta International Film/Video Festival
BEST TELEVISION DOCUMENTARY The EMMA, Exceptional Merit Media Award
National Women's Political Caucus
BEST TELEVISION DOCUMENTARY The Maggie Award, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
BEST DOCUMENTARY The Joey Awards
HUMANITARIAN AWARD of EXCELLENCE Sinking Creek Film Festival
EXEMPLARY LEADERSHIP AWARD Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

Spanish Version

Cuando el Aborto Era Ilegal (con subtítulos en español)