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Conversation Starters

It’s not always easy to start an honest, personal conversation about abortion. Here are some resources that focus on personal experiences surrounding abortion. These resources may be used in house parties or other venues. All are available online or to borrow from Preterm. Click here for a printable version of this list.

 

Films

The Abortion Diaries by Penny Lane  ▪  30 minutes  ▪  free to stream online

The Abortion Diaries is a documentary featuring 12 women who speak candidly about their experiences with abortion. The women include doctors, subway workers, artists, activists, military personnel, teachers, and students; they are Black, Latina, Jewish and white; they are mothers or child-free; they range in age from 19 to 54. Their stories weave together with the filmmaker’s diary entries to present a compelling, moving, and at times surprisingly funny “dinner party” where the audience is invited to hear what women say behind closed doors about motherhood, medical technology, sex, spirituality, love, work, and their own bodies.

 

Silent Choices by Faith Pennick  ▪  60 minutes  ▪  available to borrow

Silent Choices is about abortion and its impact on the lives of African American women. The film is a “hybrid” documentary: part historical piece, part social and religious analysis, and part first-person narrative. From African Americans’ cautious involvement with Margaret Sanger during the early birth control movement to Black nationalists and civil rights activists who staunchly opposed abortion (or stayed silent on the issue), Silent Choices examines the juxtaposition of racial and reproductive politics. Three Black women also share their stories of the abortions they had, including a woman’s wrenching tale of the illegal procedure she endured. African Americans who oppose abortion were also interviewed, and the film wraps up with a montage of responses to a comment made by one of the pro-lifers, that abortion is a white woman’s issue.

 

Motherless by the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project  ▪  30 minutes  ▪  free to stream online

Motherless is a documentary featuring the children of women who died from complications of illegal abortions. Adult children whose mothers died before abortion was legal tell the tragic stories of their mother’s abortions and deaths. The perspective of the child telling the mother’s abortion story is an interesting and different perspective, and places abortion very clearly in the context of existing motherhood. The stories also include the stories that were told within the family and publically about the circumstances of their mother’s deaths, and the stigma and silence that contributed to the pain of loss. This film is a powerful representation of the horrors of illegal abortion. Find more information and a discussion guide at watchmotherless.org.

 

Legal But Out of Reach: Six Women’s Abortion Stories by the National Network of Abortion Funds  ▪  22 minutes ▪  available to borrow

Legal But Out of Reach intertwines the stories of six women and girls who seek abortions but do not have access to the necessary funds until they are helped by abortion funds. The “characters” range from a scared 11-year-old girl and her mother, to a 30-year-old single mother in hiding from an abusive husband. These stories, shot and edited in a straightforward documentary style, expose the many challenges faced by low-income women who seek to end unwanted pregnancies, and the injustice of abortion funding in the United States. This film contains many tough stories involving fetal anomaly, domestic abuse, and disability, and the desperation that comes with needing an abortion and being unable to access it.

 

I Had an Abortion by Jennifer Baumgardner  ▪  55 minutes  ▪  available to borrow

I Had an Abortion documents the stories of 11 women ranging in age from 21 to 85. The film cuts across race, religion, region, class, sexuality, and politics—demonstrating that abortion affects all women. Told chronologically in documentary style, this film documents the history of abortion in the United States and England—from illegal to legal—over the last 100 years through the telling of personal stories. Many stories emphasize the power of hearing other’s stories, the value of knowing you are not alone, and the isolation that comes from silence.

 

After Tiller by Martha Shane and Lana Wilson  ▪  88 minutes  ▪  available to borrow

After Tiller intimately explores the highly controversial subject of third-trimester abortions in the wake of the 2009 assassination of practitioner Dr. George Tiller. The procedure is now openly performed by only four doctors in the United States, all former colleagues of Dr. Tiller, who risk their lives every day in the name of their unwavering commitment toward their patients. The film is a unique look at one of the most incendiary topics of our time, and is informative, thought-provoking, and compassionate.

 

Readings

Choice by Karen E Gramont, Nina De Bender  ▪  349 pages  ▪  available to borrow

This collection illuminates the volume of options, obstacles, and ambivalence that reproduction brings through personal, often painful stories of real women. Examining almost every angle of the pregnancy experience and celebrating the courage of the choice—whatever that choice may be—Choice offers these stories as a bulwark against the criminalization of women's reproductive options. Among these tales are those of women choosing to terminate pregnancies, have children with men unfit to raise them, fight against their own bodies to become pregnant, and keep an at-risk pregnancy that both doctors and ministers advise against. Each tale is unique, and politically charged buzz terms gain new impact nestling alongside these writers’ honest quests for basic human needs: love, nurturing, and, above all, possibility. Read the whole book, or selected stories. This is a great read for a book club!

 

My Abortion by Meaghan Winter  ▪  free to read online or available to borrow

In 2013, New York magazine featured the abortion stories of 26 women in a piece titled, “My Abortion.” A variety of abortion experiences and types of stories are represented: women from around the country, women young and old, married and single, relived and regretful, rich and poor. Several stories show women who have had multiple abortions. The article could be read in its entirety, or specific stories could be selected. Additionally, participants could read the article in advance, or read aloud at the gathering. Read the article at nymag.com.

 

1 in 3: These Are Our Stories by Advocates for Youth  ▪  79 pages  ▪  available to borrow

The 1 in 3 campaign is a grassroots movement to start a new conversation about abortion through the telling of personal stories. 1 in 3 collects individual stories in video and written form and posts them on their website. This book is a collection of 40 stories chosen from all the stories that women have submitted. The stories illustrate the complexities of women’s lives and the important role that abortion access has played throughout generations. Stories range in length from less than a page to several pages long. Conversation hosts should choose in advance a variety of stories to meet their needs (please note that advance preparation is necessary to use these materials in an event).

 

Websites and Podcasts

My Abortion, My Life  ▪  free to read online

A variety of stories collected on this website. Real stories told by real women in their own words. Conversation hosts may choose in advance a variety of stories to meet their needs (please note that advance preparation is necessary to use these materials in an event). The stories could be read in advance, or read aloud at the gathering. Go to our Read Stories page to review the stories.

 

The Abortion Diary Podcast  ▪  15- to 60-minute stories  ▪  free to stream online

A variety of recorded abortion stories told by women in their own voices. The Abortion Diary is a space for people to speak out against the shame, stigma, secrecy, and isolation surrounding abortion by generating, sharing, and receiving personal stories. People share their personal stories, and empower others to give testimony about their personal experiences and choices surrounding abortion. The Abortion Diary offers a variety of types of stories, ranging in length from about 15 to 60 minutes. Hosts may choose a diary entry (or a small number of entries) to play aloud during the house party.

 

1 in 3 by Advocates for Youth  ▪  5- to 10-minute individual stories  ▪  free to stream online

The 1 in 3 campaign is a grassroots movement to start a new conversation about abortion through the telling of personal stories. 1 in 3 collects individual stories in video and written form and posts them on their website. There is a huge variety of storytellers and abortion stories to choose from. Storytellers are of every race and a variety of ages. Video stories range in length from 5 to 10 minutes. Conversation hosts may choose in advance a variety of stories to meet their needs (please note that advance preparation is necessary to use these materials in an event). Hosts may choose any variety of videos or written stories, which may be read aloud.