Elevate Difference

The Abortion Diaries

Directed by Penny Lane

In this 30-minute documentary short, director Penny Lane gathers a group of women around a kitchen table to share women’s stories about an experience that still does not get discussed openly: abortion. The interviews, interspersed with excerpts from Lane’s own diary about her abortion, are conversation snippets with twelve women who are Lane’s dinner party guests and other individual women lounging on couches and sitting in their yards. Each woman discusses the facts and feelings surrounding their choice to abort.

Some of the reasons are economic, cultural and career-based, and some women discuss what it has been like to have children. One talks about how she wishes she could have children because of an illegal abortion that made her unable to have children and the need for safe abortions. One woman breaks away from the idea that women are supposed to have a child to fulfill their role as a complete woman, while other women look at their abortion as a chance to plan for a new start in relationships and to accomplish what they choose. Some of the men involved in the pregnancies avoided talking about a mutual decision on birth control or evaded even being supportive of their partner in the relationship, pointing to impregnating partners as an attempt to wield control over another person’s life.

Of course, there is the trauma, and there should be places to work out all the challenging feelings and stigmas around abortion. This film opens the book to such a dialogue in a straightforward fashion. How do we talk about this as an opportunity to change a woman’s life and potentially provide more stable, realistic families with the potential for multiple incomes in the present harsh political climate? Why is it still considered a badge of shame that families and others pin on women for choosing to postpone or forego motherhood? How does a woman move forward? This film is going in the right direction, and it seems to be a modest start in rethinking gender role expectations, the influences of faith and family, and how men and women can be more forthright with each other. Sometimes, simply sharing the story is enough, and the understanding about an issue like abortion will deepen.

Lane notes that this film was funded by Puffin Foundation and the Abortion Conversation Project, and I found myself wanting to know the sources of the statistics that Lane cites, even though they are credible. It would further validate the normalcy of women having to make decisions about sexuality, motherhood and family. The film's website also has more information about the film and portrayals of abortion in the media and film.

Written by: Tara Betts, March 6th 2007