Fifty years have passed since filmmaker Dorothy Fadiman obtained a back alley abortion and ended up at the Stanford Hospital emergency room with a temperature of 105, infected and bleeding. Thirty more years passed before she told her story in the Academy Award-nominated documentary When Abortion Was Illegal: Untold Stories (1992).
Now two decades later, she’s speaking up again in a new campaign, Choice at Risk, which she’ll be previewing at a free talk next Thursday (Aug. 23) in a program sponsored by the Peninsula Peace & Justice Center at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Palo Alto.
“We have a generation of young women of child bearing age who have no memory of and little information about back alley procedures,” said the Emmy Award-winning filmmaker at her Menlo Park home. “My goal is to make it safe to discuss the topic.
“The interviews that form the seven ‘mini’ docs are not sensational. They chronicle first person stories of women, doctors and human rights activists who personally experienced the terror of the back alley days. They also take the viewer inside modern-day clinics that have survived multiple arsons, where the staff wear bulletproof vests and face threats to their lives every day.
“The films are not about whether abortion is right or wrong or good or bad. The films are about the fact that when choice is not available, women die.”
The escalation of legislative restrictions as well as recent court decisions were other motivators for Dorothy to put together Choice at Risk, which she’s quick to point out, was done with the assistance of people who she describes as “my terrific team.” “I get a lot of visible credit but so many hands helped me with this,” she adds. “One of the reasons I call my company Concentric Media is that we drop a pebble in the pond and it goes out in concentric circles.”
The Choice at Risk campaign will officially launch on September 6 when the mini docs will be available on the campaign website. During her August 23 appearance, she’ll also be previewing clips culled from another of her documentary films, STEALING AMERICA: Vote by Vote (2008). To attend the evening, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Scott R. Kline