Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) and Gloria Allred on the steps of the Supreme Court, 1989. Image courtesy of WikiCommons.

Reproductive Rights Film Festival
November 8th – 9th
The Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY

The Brooklyn Museum introduces a film festival devoted to reproductive rights, a highly politicized topic in 2019. It’s been more than 4 decades since Roe v. Wade passed, and yet the conversation surrounding a women’s right to choose if, when, and where she has an abortion is still highly controversial. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, in 2018 precisely 68 pro-choice measures were enacted in 23 states, and yet there isn’t a single state that allows total access to abortions as of today. Those 68 pro-choice wins are up against legislators, countless organizations, and more than 900 anti-choice measures that have been passed in the last two decades. Although seventy percent of American voters support legal abortions and agree they are necessary to keep women with unwanted pregnancies safe, the government does not align with those views. President Trump has filled the executive branch of our government with anti-choice extremists working to completely ban abortion across the country. The Museum’s two-day festival seeks to explore the complexities of the fight for safe abortion laws and procedures.

This film festival is a welcome and necessary addition to the Museum, given the current political and social landscape. Many progressives in America were outraged when Alabama passed a near-total ban on abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, earlier this year. The bill in Alabama was signed into law a mere week after Georgia passed a similar law, banning abortions anytime after 6 weeks of pregnancy. A woman’s right to privacy is protected under the Fourteenth Amendment, but this right is currently at odds with the government’s main concern for protecting potential human life. The argument over whether abortion is the right choice for someone is highly debated on media of all kinds– whether it’s serious news channels or social media platforms like Twitter. The Brooklyn Museum is joining the conversation with perspectives that aren’t usually heard.

International Women’s Protest in New York. (Photo by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine)

New York City is a wonderful place to bring these films, as the Reproductive Health Act statute gained national media attention when it was enacted in January of this year. The RHA made abortion legal for all women who could not safely bring a child to term, as well as allowing abortions to be performed by other qualified professionals besides licensed physicians. Abortion was taken out of the criminal code and placed into public health law, solidifying reproductive rights in New York in the event that Roe v. Wade ever does get overturned. The stories shown throughout the film festival are given a welcoming platform in a liberal state like New York.

Even with all of the media attention surrounding abortion, it’s rarely a woman’s voice that gets heard. Newspaper articles, links posted to Facebook, and even news stories on TV are based on statistics relating to how poverty, lack of education, and even race might lead to a woman being more likely to get an abortion, but none of these news stories reveal the emotional truths many women struggle with when their right to decide when and if they’re going to have a family, is criticized. The Brooklyn Museum aims to put the focus back on women with films like “Abortion: Stories Women Tell.” This lets those who are personally affected by the laws, meaning all women who are able to get pregnant, use their own words to steer the reproductive health conversation in a more personal and emotionally-oriented direction.

Abortion rights activists, opponents, clinic workers, lawyers, patients, women, and OBGYNs will be represented in the films. The festival opens on the night of November 8th with the documentary “Reversing Roe,” which dives into the long-term political campaign to change the status of the Supreme Court ruling from Roe v. Wade. For a full schedule of events, check their website.

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