When Abortion Was Illegal: Untold Stories (1992)


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. Remembrances include those of women who experienced illegal abortions, doctors who risked imprisonment and loss of their licenses for providing illegal abortions, and individuals who broke the law by helping women find safe abortions.

About making the film, director Dorothy Fadiman said, "While a student at Stanford, I had become unintentionally pregnant. I had no money, no committed partner and my family was 3,000 miles away. I could neither find or afford a skilled provider. Abortion was illegal in California (1962), so I paid $600 to a person whose face I never saw to terminate my pregnancy. 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. I could have died, like so many women who risked the back alleys or aborted themselves. In 1973, a Supreme Court decision affirmed that most abortions would be legal. 1991, now a documentary filmmaker, I realized that some members of the Supreme Court were so anti-abortion that they could vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Most people had no idea what the dangers of the back alleys had been. I decided to make a documentary based on what had happened to me, and to so many other women." 

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