Help me find an abortion documentary.
October 3, 2006 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Inspired by this question, I'm trying to find a documentary on abortion I saw in university that is somewhat similar to The Abortion Diaries.

The documentary I saw had the same basic premise: several women recounting their experiences. But the execution was vastly different. You never saw the women, only heard their voices; they were never identified in the film, nor were their stories seperated. The effect was a sort of voices bubbling out of the ether, disassociated memories that only gradually formed into semi-coherent narratives. Aside from some statistics about how many women are unable to find proper post-abortion care, or have complications due to back-alley abortions, the film tended to avoid politics (though because the majority of the women in the film had abortions and many did not regret the decision, it's necessarily pro-choice). The words were spoken by actors but taken largely from diaries kept by several women about their experience.

The individual experiences were all different as well: some had their abortions in hospital, others at unlicensed clinics, for example. I think there's even a portion of the script where one woman says something along the lines of "I went home the next day. I felt free." and then another woman says "I cried for weeks."

The visuals were all incidental action: a woman's hands flipping through a calendar, the floors of a hospital hallway as seen from a moving gurney, the bright lamp above an operating table.

I thought tracking down the documentary might give the poster of the other question some insight into the variety of experiences women face during the decision to abort, as well as some idea of what the recovery process can be like. Plus I wouldn't mind seeing it again myself. I was at a Canadian university and so it might be a National Film Board documentary, but I couldn't find it in my cursory search of the archives.
posted by chrominance to Media & Arts (4 answers total)
Was it possibly related to this book? They might also be able to point you in the right direction.
posted by cobaltnine at 4:42 PM on October 3, 2006

Response by poster: I don't think so. Many of the stories were about legal abortions as well, and I'm pretty sure they were all contemporary stories—nothing from the 30s or anything.
posted by chrominance at 1:52 PM on October 4, 2006

Response by poster: Oh, I should probably also mention it wasn't a feature-length film, only about 20 minutes long.
posted by chrominance at 2:08 PM on October 4, 2006

Best answer: Digging through my notes has produced the answer: it's Kay Armatage's Speakbody, a 1979 experimental short. Considering how hard it is to find any material on the film on the open internet, I'll just post this basic summary from Cineaction! 24/25, 1991:
The eloquent and evocative structure of Speakbody combines documentary and fiction to consolidate a diversity of women's experiences around abortion. Addressing topics ranging from birth control and women's wages to fear and anger, the heterogeneity of the women's voices never privileges any one experience or position. The images that accompany the testimonials are made up of fragmentary reenactments of one women's (sic) discovery of her pregnancy through to and after her abortion.
If you can actually manage to get your hands on a copy, I'd recommend it. "Feminist avant-garde documentary" sounds intimidating but it was one of the few documentaries I saw in my film classes that stick in my mind to this day.
posted by chrominance at 3:12 PM on October 4, 2006

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