Films on Abortion

In 1973 The United States Supreme Court struck down state laws that ban abortion, but the moral controversy surrounding the issue is far from resolved.

October Baby

Drama 2011 PG-13 104 minutes. Stunned and angered by the truth of her birth, college freshman Hannah sets out on a spring break road trip with her best friend Jason and a band of misfits to discover who she is, where she came from and where she will go from here. As mass entertainment goes, the abortion debate does not typically count as good Saturday-night date movie fare; the subject rarely makes it to the mainstream multiplex. But at a time when the issue is once again causing agitation in political circles, this small film October Babyis about a woman who learns that she is, as the movie puts it, a “survivor of a failed abortion.”

12th & Delaware

Documentary 2010 NR. Filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady spent a year in the small town of Fort Pierce, Fla., where an ideological tug-of-war rages at the corner of 12th and Delaware, the site of both an abortion clinic and a pro-life crisis pregnancy center. Staff members at the abortion clinic strive to protect their clients — and themselves — fearing the escalating violence perpetuated by some factions of the anti-abortion movement.


Drama 2009 R 108 minutes. At a crossroads in his life, New Yorker Roger Greenberg takes time to figure things out and travels to Los Angeles, where he house-sits for his brother and forges an unlikely bond with his sibling’s assistant, Florence Marr. One of the most startling things about the movie is its matter-of-fact, nonjudgmental depiction of abortion. In the film, Greta Gerwig plays a twentysomething personal assistant who begins a desultory romance with Ben Stiller’s Greenberg. When she learns that she is pregnant as a result of a relationship that ended more than a month earlier, she decides to go to the hospital for an abortion, and she returns home without experiencing much pain or guilt.

Unborn in the USA
Inside the War on Abortion

Documentary 2007 NR 105 minutes. . Weaving together 70 exclusive interviews and rare archival footage, this exhaustive chronicle of the U.S. pro-life movement investigates the inner workings and deep pockets of the influential group. The filmmakers examine the movement’s icons, fundraising machines and inroads among college students. Documentarians Stephen Fell and Will Thompson traveled across 35 states in one year to capture this controversial story.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
(4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile)

Drama 2007 NR 113 minutes. . In the last days of communism in Romania, college student Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) wants to end her unplanned pregnancy. With help from best friend and fellow student Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), Gabita seeks an abortion — which is illegal under the oppressive Ceausescu regime. Director Cristian Mungiu’s searing portrait of life under a dictatorship received a slew of film festival awards along with a Golden Globe nod for Best Foreign Language Film.

Lake of Fire

Documentary 2006 NR 152 minutes. . Director Tony Kaye examines the loaded issue of abortion in America in this evenhanded black-and-white documentary that explores the murders of doctors, uses footage from actual procedures and features interviews with a range of opinions. Cultural critic Noam Chomsky, Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry and others lend their voices to the ongoing discussion in this blend of personal stories, political realities and philosophical debate.

The Last Abortion Clinic

Documentary Frontline 2005. In 2005 the headlines were filled with speculation about changes in the U.S. Supreme Court and what those changes might mean for abortion — an issue that has divided the country for over 30 years. Heated rhetoric from both sides continues to be heard in courtrooms and on the campaign trail. But while attention is often focused on the arguments, there is another story playing out in local communities. Pro-life advocates have waged a successful campaign to reduce abortions in many places throughout the country. By using state laws to regulate and limit abortion and by creating their own clinics to offer alternatives to women, they have changed the facts on the ground. On Nov. 8, Frontline investigates the steady decline in the number of physicians and clinics performing abortions and focuses on local political battles in states like Mississippi, where only a single clinic performs the controversial procedure.

The Education of Shelby Knox

Documentary 2005 NR 1hr 16m. Small-town Texas teenager Shelby Knox becomes an advocate for sex education (and the local media’s so-called “Sex Ed Girl”) when she tries to improve the county’s sky-high teen pregnancy rate by challenging her high school’s policy of teaching abstinence. In this documentary from Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt — which uses footage shot over a three-year period — the action unfolds almost effortlessly, revealing a stunning transformation.

Vera Drake

Drama 2004 R 125 minutes. . Vera Drake spends her days doting on her working-class family in 1950s England. But Vera also has a secret side: She visits women and helps them induce miscarriages. When the authorities get wind of her activities, Vera’s world quickly falls apart.


Satire 2004 PG-13 92 minutes. When Mary (Jena Malone), a devout senior at a Christian high school, accidentally gets pregnant, she starts to see her peers and her faith in a whole new way in this darkly comic coming-of-age story that was produced by R.E.M. front man Michael Stipe. Pop star Mandy Moore co-stars as Mary’s friend Hilary Faye, a Fundamentalist Christian who fronts their all-girl group Christian Jewels with blind faith and fabulous vocals.

Live Free or Die

Documentary 2000 PBS P.O.V. series. Film follows Dr. Wayne Goldner, a New Hampshire OBGYN fighting on the latest front of the “abortion wars.” Set against the backdrop of Goldner’s own community, the film captures a year of daily struggles and moral conflict. In the documentary, Wayne challenges a Catholic hospital merger that greatly reduces the area’s services. When a patient who is 14 weeks pregnant is barred from the hospital operating room, Goldner is forced to send her on an 80 mile cab ride for an emergency abortion. Goldner’s greatest conflict, as depicted in the film, is reducing the tension caused by his presence in the community. In his hometown, protesters target Goldner as an abortionist and succeed in getting him dismissed as a sex education teacher from a local school. The conflict moves to the center of community politics when Goldner applies to be reinstated by the local school board. After a wide ranging dispute, the board denies his request. The film concludes that doctors like Wayne Goldner often stop providing abortions because of the “profound sense of isolation they endure.” The film aim is to show that, more than violence, it is a lack of social support for abortion providers that has left 86% of counties in the US without abortion service.

The Abortion Pill

Documentary 1997. Examines the pros and cons of a Mifepristone (RU486), a drug that can end pregnancy without surgery.

If These Walls Could Talk

Drama 1996 R 97 minutes. A house holds the stories of three women — and a glimpse at the evolution of American abortion rights. A 1950s widow (Demi Moore) seeks an illegal abortion after a one-night stand. A 1970s mother of four (Sissy Spacek) must choose between having a child and starting a career. And in the 1990s, a student (Anne Heche) clashes with anti-abortion activists en route to seek an abortion from her doctor (Cher). Cher co-directs with Nancy Savoca.

Citizen Ruth

Satire 1996 R 105 minutes. In this satirical look at a controversial issue, unfit mother of four Ruth Stoops (Laura Dern) discovers while in jail that she’s pregnant again. The judge charges her with endangering the fetus, but tells her he’ll reduce the charges if she has an abortion. When word of this gets out, Ruth’s caught in the middle of a tug-of-war between anti-abortion and abortion rights activists who want to use Ruth to get their messages across.

A Private Matter

Docudrama 1992 PG-13 92 minutes. In this fact-based drama, children’s TV show host Sherri Finkbine (Sissy Spacek) sparks a national controversy when she decides to abort her fetus, which is severely damaged from the drug thalidomide. When the “Romper Room” host’s secret is discovered, the news spawns a media storm and divides the country. Sherri and her husband (Aidan Quinn) are hounded by the press, their private lives becoming an open book during a most difficult time.

Just Another Girl on the I.R.T.

Drama 1992 R 92 minutes. Confident high school student Chantel Mitchell (Ariyan A. Johnson) dreams of escaping her tough, poor Brooklyn neighborhood to one day become a doctor. But her college dreams are jeopardized when she realizes she is pregnant. This movie continues to be extremely relevant. Every young person should see this film.

The Abortion Rights Trilogy
From the Back-Alleys to the Supreme Court and Beyond

Documentary Series 1992 Part 1: When Abortion Was Illegal (Untold Stories) 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.

Documentary Series 1995 Part 2: From Danger To Dignity (The Fight For Safe Abortion) This film combines rare archival footage with present-day interviews to weave together two parallel stories: the evolution of underground networks to help women find safe abortions outside the law and the intensive efforts of activists and legislators who broke the silence and changed the laws. The film weaves together two parallel stories: the evolution of underground networks that helped women find safe abortions outside the law, and the intensive efforts by activists and legislators to decriminalize abortion through legislative and judicial channels. This film combines rare archival footage with interviews that document the courageous efforts of those who fought to break the silence, change the laws and end the shame which surrounded abortion when it was a crime. The film is the second of the Abortion Rights Film Trilogy.

Documentary Series 1996 Part 3 57 min. The Fragile Promise of Choice: Abortion in the U.S. Today. Recently updated to include current statistics! As a result of restrictive legislation, cutbacks in funding, and sieges of harassment and violence, access to legal abortion is declining. This film examines how these conditions have affected the lives of providers and the women who seek their services.

Murder On ‘Abortion Row’

Documentary Frontline 1996. Airing as his trial begins, Frontline follows the intersecting lives of twenty-two-year-old antiabortionist, John Salvi III, charged with murder in the armed attacks on two Massachusetts health clinics, and his victims, Shannon Lowney and Leanne Nichols. Through in-depth, personal interviews with family members and friends, clinic employees, police, Pro-Life and Pro-Choice protesters, witnesses, and religious leader Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, the film draws a portrait of what led to Salvi’s brutal acts of violence. From the producers of ‘Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo,’ this two-hour program crosses the emotionally charged terrain of the abortion battle.

Story of Women
(Une affaire de femmes)

Drama 1989 NR 108 minutes. This drama is based on the true story of Marie-Louise Girard (Isabelle Huppert), a French woman put to death for performing unlawful abortions — an occupation she stumbles into when a friend asks for her assistance in ending a pregnancy. More a sensible businesswoman than a champion of women’s rights, Girard finds this practicality extends to the bedroom as well, as she sleeps with a colleague to gain some sexual satisfaction of her own.

Abortion Clinic

Documentary Frontline 1983. For the first time on American television, Frontline’s cameras record the most intimate details and one of the most personal decisions a woman can make. By focusing not only on the clinic, but also on a right-to-life doctor who pickets the clinic every Saturday, the film becomes a revealing study of people confronting their most deeply held values.


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