In Her View: Seeing abortion through the lens of a Filmmaker

My latest blog appears on Exhale, a movement that inspired me, in part, to write my screenplay:

When I began writing the screenplay for In Her View, it was because I had a compelling story to tell. A story like so many others that has been shared through Exhale. It was to be a cinematic memoir of an abortion I had; an experience that left me broken and depressed. These stories don’t get written very often and when they do, it’s not likely they get made into a film. I can count on one hand the number of films about abortion that have hit mainstream audiences since the 90s. People don’t want to talk about abortion, and they certainly don’t consider it entertainment for their local multiplex. Fair enough. Yet daunting as it seemed, I persisted in writing my script.

I was inspired by films like If These Walls Could Talk, and Citizen Ruth. More recently indie films like Obvious Child and Grandma have attempted to re-ignite the conversation in the wake of regressive state laws sweeping across the US since 2010. Yet, the attempts were oblique, one-off comedies that failed to make much of a statement. It’s like we’re afraid to talk too deeply about the real challenges of women who are faced with an unplanned pregnancy. At the same time, so many of the stories are told from a white, middle-class perspective.

I grappled with my story for years. I wanted to tell it, but I feared the repercussions if I did. Because the reality is, that I was scarred by my abortion. Despite living in a progressive, feminist country like Canada, that offers women much more freedom of choice than most other countries, I felt trapped into making a choice that I didn’t want to make. And as compelling as that story was to tell, I feared that I would lose control of my own narrative and my story would be used to further someone else’s political agenda. That was in fact, the very plot of Citizen Ruth, a 1996 comedy starring Laura Dern.

So, I felt I needed to reframe the script. In the heated political climate of today, I didn’t want to simply tell one woman’s story. I had more to say than that. At a time when women’s rights are being debated and their stories are being exploited for political gains, I wanted to write a film about the power of giving women a voice to tell their own stories.

Inspired by Exhale’s mandate to simply listen and support women without judgement and to help end the stigma of talking about our abortions, I re-framed my story through the eyes of a documentary filmmaker, and how the stories she hears impacts her views about her subject matter. I also wanted to demonstrate how the first hand experience of abortion can change our views, because despite the deeply traumatising experience I had, I emerged from it convinced, more than ever, that women must be empowered to make their own decisions. It is not enough to simply say women must be free to access safe, legal abortion care. We also must feel supported in whatever choice we make, regardless of our circumstance. And for poor, marginalized women, that is so seldom the case.

There are many grey areas in the subject of abortion. Each woman’s story is unique to her alone, as Exhale has highlighted so beautifully through their work. My dream, in bringing this film to audiences, is to ask people to really examine those grey areas, and to leave their steadfast views behind for long enough to see abortion through another person’s eyes. It is my hope that by doing so, we can all work toward a world where every woman can choose for herself, supported in whatever challenges she may face.

Until we are able to find our voice and simultaneously accept that every woman’s truth is not our own, what hope do we have of moving beyond the anti-/pro- dichotomy, toward finding real solutions that will improve women’s lives?

It can only begin when we confront our fear of talking about abortion without shame, yet with honesty and openness.

I am so proud to support Exhale’s mandate of pro-voice conversation through my film In Her View, which gives voice to diverse women’s abortion stories. In our fundraising efforts, we have committed 5% of money raised to Exhale. Please visit our Indie-gogo campaign, watch our pitch video, read about the short, proof of concept film, to be released very soon, and donate as much as you are able. You can help amplify the conversation about abortion and end the stigma.

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