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When Abortion was Illegal

The era of illegal abortion, roughly the period between the turn of the century and the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, has been a sealed chapter in women's history.

The profound aura of shame and fear surrounding unwanted pregnancies and abortions before Roe v. Wade kept most women from ever admitting that they had had illegal abortions. Women suffering complications from back alley or self-induced abortions risked arrest if they admitted what they had done, as did their husbands and doctors if they acknowledged compliance and aid.

WHEN ABORTION WAS ILLEGAL illuminates this largely undocumented era and reveals the physical, emotional and legal consequences of having an abortion when it was a criminal act.

'Recommended viewing for physicians, medical students, residents, and anyone interested in understanding the controversial issue of abortion.' Fertility News

'Its tone is quietly eloquent, never hysterical... a picture of long-remembered fear and last ditch desperation.' Little Rock Free Press

'Creates the space for viewers to reach their own conclusions.' Beret Strong, Ph.D., Perspective Magazine

'With riveting detail... eschewing the inflammatory rhetoric that often colors the abortion debate, Untold Stories nonetheless delivers a powerful argument.' Michael Fox, The San Francisco Chronicle

'A 'must see' for health professionals who want to truly understand the effects of turning back the clock.' Amy Levine, Women's Resource Center

'Affectingly related stories...etch the climate of fear, pain, reprisal, and sometimes death that permeated a society outlawing abortion.' Irene Wood, Booklist


Main credits

Fadiman, Dorothy (film director)
Fadiman, Dorothy (film producer)
Fadiman, Dorothy (narrator)

Other credits

Prinicipal camera, Daniel Meyers; editor, Daniel Meyers; music, Erika Luckett.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

American Studies
Reproductive Rights
Social Psychology
Social Studies
Women's History
Women's Studies


illegal abortion, Roe v. Wade, women's history, shame; "When Abortion was Illegal"; Bullfrog Films