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April 10th, 2006

Speak Out: I had an Abortion, Women’s stories at the Culture Project

by Sareena Sandhu

In commemoration of the 33rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood of New York City screened the film Speak Out: I Had an Abortion on January 22 at the Culture project on Bleecker Street, NYC. For so many people this anniversary is a benchmark of enormous proportion. Both on and off Capitol Hill, women in numbers have been fueling up to make activism the choice keyword of this year.?Ǭ With this in mind, Gillian Aldrich and Jennifer Baumgardner launched the film “Speak out: I had an Abortion” on this particular date of such legal precedence.

Over 1.3 million women have abortions each year in the United States alone. Underneath the din of politicians posturing about “life” and “choice,” beyond activists yelling about murder and rights, there are the stories of women who have had abortions. The documentary produced by Jennifer Baumgardner and Gillian Aldrich, features 11 women, ages 21 to 85, telling their abortion experience. The film cuts across race, religion, region, class, sexuality, and politics–as does it’s subject.

These eleven stories reveal the true nature of opinions stirring the heart of every woman who has to undertake such a decision.?Ǭ In each of the testimonies, there is a vein of shame. This shame is something which Jennifer Baumgartner, a former editor of Ms. Magazine, believes needs to be exposed in order to heal the issue itself. “Women needing to talk about their abortions and tell the details of what happened to them” is one of the main reasons we did this film, Baumgartner stated. The film is without any judgment except those that the audience places on it.

The myriad of experiences ranged from a sixty year old African American woman who terminated her pregnancy at an appointed time and place in Harlem Hospital to a nineteen year old Midwestern girl who wrestled with consulting her Mormon based family and boyfriend about her “condition.” True, the year is really 2006. Anyone who watches the film will leave with the immediacy to “do something” about women’s rights and opinions right away. It raises some very important questions. If women strive for absolute control over their bodies then we must also accept a young woman getting rid of her ‘massive cells,’ as she vehemently described the abortion at a panel held after the showing of this film.

“Shame is relative,” said Gillian Aldrich, the producer and director, when asked about the experiences surrounding the women that she interviewed. Aldrich is a documentary producer and journalist who has worked on social justice issues in television, radio, and print.?Ǭ She has worked with Michael Moore on several projects, including “Bowling for Columbine”, “The Awful Truth”, and “Downsize This”. On the activist side, it is inspirational that some women can say what they really feel.?Ǭ One such activist is vehement about being actively pro choice. One of the women in the film states, “Basically, I was killing my baby.” Jennifer Baumgartner states that “before Roe v. Wade, there was actually more privacy and less conflict involved in having an abortion.”

To shed light on a public and political issue is also lighting the way for society to judge you on that same thread. “After Roe vs. Wade, the sheer exposition of it resulted in the big stigma on abortion. There is a push in feminism right now to take it to the next level.”

What is the difference between abortion and termination? It is merely words and a level of experience that gives the audience of this film the impetus to describe it in their own words. It is necessary to highlight those males who feel comfortable and motivated enough to attend a screening of this film. It is interesting to note that when asked what was the most surprising feedback of the piece, Ms. Baumgartner stated, “It was the huge number of men who contacted me and said they wished to come out and speak about their experiences involving abortion.” Those men were inherently interested in the decision-making process of women, and communicated that they felt left out in that action.?Ǭ She then added, “Not a single Congressmen has come out about abortion,” and yet these are those who we chose to legislate law in our country. This is perhaps the single most pressing conclusion one must contemplate at the end of this film. *

“Speak Out: I Had an Abortion” is currently being shown as a core film in the offices of Planned Parenthood of New York City. Visit www.speakoutfilms.com for details on upcoming screenings.

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