Original Medium: VHS/DVD
Speak Out: I Had an Abortion eloquently tells the real stories of women who have had an abortion and want to share their stories with other women and bring an end to the shame associated with the procedure. The movie itself is a reclamation of women’s reproductive rights and freedoms as well as each individual woman’s assertion of her body and her pride in it. The documentary makes an obvious effort to appeal to all women by documenting the lives of very different women, including an elderly woman, a married suburban mother, and a single college student. The film does a great job of showing how and why women seek to have an abortion as well as why they later try and hide the fact that they did have an abortion. The film draws attention to this shame by having several of the women wear a shirt with print across the front, stating “I Had an Abortion.”
This film would be ideal in a Women’s Studies course that examines second and third wave feminism and the similarities and differences in the strategies and tactics each movement employs. Baumgardner, one of the directors of the film, is from an older generation of women that fought for women’s rights during the second wave of feminism in the 1970s. These women’s tactics can be seen as much more radical and cutting edge when viewed in contrast to the strategies and tactics of third wave feminism. This debate continues to play out today as many mainstream feminists object to Baumgardner’s in-your-face approach to the film but more specifically to her promotion of the “I Had an Abortion” t-shirts. This radical vs. mainstream, second vs. third wave feminism tension can be explored through the viewing of this movie.
This movie could also be instrumental in breaking down negative perceptions of both female sexuality and female reproductive freedom. Many of the stories told by the women include anecdotes of a complete lack of knowledge regarding sexuality. By widely promoting this film and showing it in a public context, the shameful secrets associated with female sexuality and, by extension, female reproductive freedom, can be deconstructed, dispelled, and disbanded.
Related links for more information:
The first link provides a background on the film and briefly shares the stories of several of the women. The last two links explore the tension created by Baumgardner’s t-shirts and illustrate the radical vs. moderate divide in the feminist and women’s movement.