Abortion in the "Post-1973 Generation"
(Originally published in buzz magazine on 9/18/2008)
Abortion. There’s a chance just reading that word pissed you off. Few issues in American politics ignite as much anger and controversy as a woman’s right (or lack thereof) to terminate childbirth. Conservatives and liberals, believers and atheists, mothers and daughters, teenage boyfriends and teenage girlfriends — the polarizing topic seems to ignite argument among pretty much everyone. A double-feature to be screened this Friday in Urbana will address the debate head-on.
Rookie filmmakers Sarah Diehl (originally from Berlin) and Angie Young (originally from Cleveland) will present their debut documentaries — both serving as arguments for the liberalization of abortion laws — at 7 p.m. in the Independent Media Center. Diehl’s Abortion Democracy: Poland/South Africa compares and contrasts abortion policy in the two countries. Young’s The Coat Hanger Project focuses on the current state of the US pro-choice/reproductive justice movement 35 years after Roe v. Wade, specifically targeting what she calls the “Post-1973 Generation.”
The latter movie sports quite the attention-grabbing logo: a red-stained coat hanger and blood splotches dotting a white backdrop. Why use such a bold moniker and accompanying visual art?
“The coat hanger is a symbol for what it was like for women before Roe v. Wade, and even today in places around the world where abortion is illegal,” Young said. “When access to abortion is restricted, abortion still continues. It happens. And women die from it, because when it comes down to it, a woman will do what she has to do in order to terminate a pregnancy.”
A state ban scare in 2006 inspired the 28-year-old Washington D.C. resident to record footage of counter-protester rallies and interviews with leaders of the reproductive justice movement.
“I was working at the National Abortion Federation, and that is the year that South Dakota put forth a total ban on abortion,” Young said. “The governor
signed, and the bill was brought to the people to vote on.”
The state politicians’ attempt to pass a law without allowing exceptions for incest and/or rape victims signaled a turning point in the American public’s perception on abortion.
"It was the first time a ban to this degree almost passed,” Young said. “It was definitely brought up to go to Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.”
Much to Young’s relief, the people of South Dakota rejected the new legislation. But activists of the pro-choice persuasion aren’t in the clear yet. Young fears enthusiasm for pro-choice politics has undergone a “slow erosion” since the federal government legalized abortion.
“If McCain and Palin win the election, we’re going to lose Roe v. Wade, period,” Young said. “It has been planned that way. Roe v. Wade is on the table to be overturned. This election is going to decide that, and people need to know.”
Symptoms of America’s waning sympathy for mothers seeking abortions have popped up in recent Hollywood cinema.
“The anti-choice people have the upper hand right now. It’s been a slow change, but I definitely feel like it’s in the culture. You’ve got Juno. Teen pregnancy has become glamorous,” Young said. “You’ve got the movie Knocked Up where they wouldn’t even say the word ‘abortion.’ It’s definitely not OK to talk about.”
There’s no telling if the touring documentarians’ films will change any minds. But one thing is for sure: if Young’s fears come true, sexually active Americans who don’t want babies had better stock up on condoms and birth control pills, plan on adoption, save up for a plane ticket, or else come to terms with glutting landfills with gory wire hangers.