Nine (Free) Films for Understanding What’s at Stake with the Impending Loss of Roe v. Wade

On May 2, a leaked draft majority opinion from Supreme Court Justice Alito in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization revealed that Roe v. Wade, and the federal right to abortion it guarantees, will likely soon be overturned. This leak came nearly a week after Kentucky became the first state to ban in-clinic abortions, and after numerous states had already put 15-week abortion bans into effect. States across the U.S. are moving to legally restrict reproductive choice at an alarming rate, a trend only predicted to increase with the recent news.

As we grapple with the magnitude and reach of what this ruling will mean, Women Make Movies is making a selection of films available that shed light on the history of reproductive rights in the U.S. and set forth what’s at stake as abortion access is rolled back.

From the BAFTA award-winning new release America’s War on Abortion (dir. Deeyah Khan), which examines the erosion of reproductive rights in the U.S. and foregrounds the stories of impoverished women and women of color; to Jane: An Abortion Service (dir. Kate Kirtz and Nell Lundy), the story of “Jane,” the Chicago-based women’s health group who performed nearly 12,000 safe illegal abortions between 1969 and 1973 with no formal medical training; to the 2020 Sundance Film Festival selection Abortion Helpline, which shows how economic stigma and cruel laws determine who has access to abortion in America; WMM is hoping to raise awareness and inspire discussion.

Above all, we honor all the courageous people—especially women, nonbinary and transgender people—who have been at the forefront of fighting for reproductive choice and bodily autonomy for decades.

In response to this critical moment, Women Make Movies is making the following films available to watch for free through May 31, 2022. Sign up to receive access to the films here.

All films are also available for virtual programming, to book for screenings, and to purchase on DVD or via Digital Site License. Many are also available on Kanopy or DocuSeek (links are included below).

America’s War on Abortion

A film by Deeyah Khan | United States| 2021 | 65 mins


In this BAFTA award-winning film, two-time Emmy and Peabody award-winning filmmaker Deeyah Khan examines the erosion of reproductive rights in the United States. Featuring powerful accounts from activists fighting for, and against, women’s right to choose, the film foregrounds the stories of those often forgotten in this ‘war’ who nonetheless find themselves on its frontline: impoverished women and women of color.  

Fly So Far: When Miscarriage Is a Crime

A film by Celina Escher | El Salvador | 2021 | Spanish, Subtitled | 89 mins


In El Salvador, which has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, women are commonly investigated and punished for having miscarriages, stillbirths and other obstetric emergencies. Fly So Far, which tells the story of Teodora Vásquez, a woman who was sentenced to thirty years in prison after suffering a stillbirth at nine months pregnant, is a grave warning of just how far state control of women’s bodies can go. While the film exposes brutal human rights abuses, it is also unmistakably a story of collective resistance, activism, and sisterhood, as well as the self-determination and agency of women. 

Birthright: A War Story

A film by Civia Tamarkin | U.S. | 2017 | 100 mins


A real-life Handmaid’s Tale, this urgent documentary examines how women are being jailed, physically violated and even put at risk of dying as a radical movement tightens its grip across America. Birthright: A War Story explores the accelerating gains of the crusade to control pregnant women and the fallout that is creating a public health crisis, turning pregnant women into criminals and challenging the constitutional protections of every woman in America.

Available to watch on Kanopy.

Jane: An Abortion Service

A film by Kate Kirtz and Nell Lundy | U.S. | 1996 | 58 mins


This fascinating political look at a little-known chapter in women’s history tells the story of “Jane”, the Chicago-based women’s health group who performed nearly 12,000 safe illegal abortions between 1969 and 1973 with no formal medical training. As Jane members describe finding feminism and clients describe finding Jane, archival footage and recreations mingle to depict how the repression of the early sixties and social movements of the late sixties influenced this unique group. 

Available to watch on Kanopy.

Belly of the Beast

A film by Erika Cohn, Produced by Angela Tucker, Nicole Docta and Christen Marquez | U.S. | 2020 | 81 minutes


Filmed over seven years with extraordinary access and intimate accounts from currently and formerly incarcerated people, this Emmy-winning documentary exposes a pattern of illegal sterilizations, modern-day eugenics and reproductive injustice in California prisons. This film underscores that the fight for reproductive rights is about maintaining personal bodily autonomy as well as the choice to have children or not have children. 

Available to watch on Kanopy.

Abortion Helpline, This Is Lisa

A film by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater and Mike Attie | U.S. | 2019 | 13 minutes


At the Philadelphia abortion helpline, counselors field nonstop calls from women and teens who are seeking to end a pregnancy but can’t afford to, illustrating how economic stigma and cruel laws determine who has access to abortion in America. ABORTION HELPLINE, THIS IS LISA, shortlisted for Oscars 2021 for Best Documentary Short Subject and winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Shorts at AFI Docs 2020, is a powerful short documentary that gives insight into the consequences of the Hyde amendment.

Available to watch on Topic.

62 Days

A film by Rebecca Haimowitz | U.S. | 2017 | 29 minutes


An urgent examination of a growing trend of laws that seek to control a pregnant woman’s body. It tells the story of a brain-dead pregnant woman whose family was forced to keep her on life support against their will. Marlise Muñoz had been clear about her end-of-life wishes before she suffered a pulmonary embolism and was pronounced dead: she did not want to be on mechanical support under any circumstances. But Marlise was kept alive because of a little-known law that states “a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment… from a pregnant patient.” 

Available to watch on Kanopy.

I Had an Abortion

A film by Gillian Aldrich and Jennifer Baumgardner | U.S. | 2005 | 55 minutes


Powerful, poignant, and fiercely honest, I HAD AN ABORTION tackles the taboo of women’s personal stories of having an abortion. The documentary features 10 women – including famed feminist Gloria Steinem – who candidly describe experiences spanning seven decades, from the years before Roe v. Wade to the early 2000s. Filmmakers Jennifer Baumgardner (author of Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future) and Gillian Aldrich insightfully document how changing societal pressures have affected women’s choices and experiences.

Available to watch on Kanopy.

With a Vengeance: The Fight for Reproductive Freedom

A film by Lori Hiris | U.S. | 1989 | 40 minutes


This historical film offers an empowering look at the strength and breadth of the women’s movement of the 1980s and the ways its battles resembled those of the 60s. Rare archival footage and interviews with early abortion rights activists, including members of Redstockings and the JANE Collective, are intercut with young women who testify to the need for multi-racial grassroots coalitions. Flo Kennedy and Byllye Avery, African American women who were early leaders for reproductive rights, make connections between racism, reproductive freedom, and healthcare for the poor.

Sign and share Ms.’s relaunched “We Have Had Abortions” petition—whether you yourself have had an abortion, or simply stand in solidarity with those who have—to let the Supreme Court, Congress and the White House know: We will not give up the right to safe, legal, accessible abortion.

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About and

Kendra Hodgson is the Director of Strategy & Innovation at Women Make Movies. She is passionate about social justice, gender equity, and the power of stories. Before joining WMM, she spent eighteen years directing marketing and distribution at the Media Education Foundation, during which time she oversaw the transition to digital streaming. Kendra holds a B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.S. in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy.
Emily Abi-Kheirs is the Marketing & Engagement Manger at Women Make Movies. Emily is dedicated to uplifting and amplifying stories that are underrepresented in mainstream media through documentary film programming and distribution. Before joining WMM, she worked in a variety of capacities at WGBH and WORLD Channel. She currently serves on the board of Women in Film and Video New England and is an active member of Brown Girls Doc Mafia.