On Saturday evening at Semora Spraoi RAG were screened two abortion rights documentaries, 'The Coat Hanger Project' and 'Abortion Democracy : Poland/South Africa'. The makers of both documentaries were present so the screenings were introduced by them and there was a wide ranging discussion after the films had been show. The audio of the introductions can be listened to below.
'Abortion Democracy : Poland/South Africa' looks at the actual situations in the two countries for women trying to obtain an abortion. In Poland abortion has been made illegal in most cases but the reality is that illegal abortions are widely available with classified ads for these services being carried in newspapers. In South Africa on the other hand abortion is legal in most circumstances but a combination of poor access to health care in general and a large percentage of doctors unwilling to carry out terminations mean that actually accessing abortion is difficult in particular for poor and rural women. Both countries went though liberation processes in the early 1990's but the different nature of these processes led to very different and opposed outcomes. The situations are compared through interviews with medical workers and women who are or have been in crisis pregnancies.
'The Coat Hanger Project' looks at the pre and post Roe V Wade situation in the USA. From the 1880's until the Roe V Wade decision of supreme court decision on 1973 abortion was illegal in most if not all US states. Despite this hundreds of thousands, indeed millions of women sought terminations in those years and many performed DIY terminations using among other means the coat hanger of the title. The opening minutes of the film include pictures of three women who died performing such DIY procedures. These graphic images are used in the context of a perceived complacency of young Americans today who are for the most part standing by as the Roe v Wade decision in being undermined. This film ends with footage of Clinic Defender counter protests in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Atlanta, Georgia and interviews with the young people involved in these defense campaigns. These modern struggles are theorised under the label 'Reproductive Justice', an intersectional approach to pro-choice struggles.
Somewhere in the region of 20 people turned up for the screenings, about 80% of them women.The discussion afterwards focused on a couple of areas.
The first was the statement made by one of the academics interviewed in 'The Coat Hanger Project' that rather then refer to herself as pro-choice she had started saying she was pro-abortion. A couple of people made the point that the decision to have an abortion can be very positive for individual women, it can be the first step they take in regaining control over their lives.
The second discussion revolved around the situation in Ireland. I was somewhat surprized that a lot of those who spoke seemed quite pessimistic but on reflection I realised that few people present would have been adults prior to the massive wave of liberalisation of the early 1990's. Outside of that context it can look like the struggle for reproductive rights is going nowhere fast, just an endless repetition of tragic court cases involving individual women. But looked in the context of condoms only becoming freely available in 1985 (before that you had to be married and have a doctors prescription to buy condoms) there are reasons to be optomistic. Superficially Ireland may resemble Poland but the two are trains passing in the night, heading in opposite directions.
Check the indymedia.ie events wire for further screenings of these films in Ireland
Note on the audio. I recorded the opening presentations on the spur of the moment so in particular in the second one there are periods where the audio is unclear as someone sat down beside me and removed their coat. They are both short, in the region of two minutes each but still contain a good deal of additional information.