Abortion Doctors Celebrated in Local Documentary ‘Our Bodies Our Doctors’ | Art

On August 14, the SIFF Cinema Uptown theater hosted a screening of the 2019 documentary, “Our Bodies Our Doctors.” In addition to the screening of the film, the theater hosted a panel discussion with the film’s director, as well as two of the featured doctors.

The documentary, directed by current Portland State University Professor Emeritus Jan Haaken, provides an unyielding look at the abortion process and the doctors who perform it. The film, featuring footage of real abortion procedures in the Pacific Northwest and beyond, won awards from the Seattle International Film Festival and the Portland International Film Festival, in addition to awards from other festivals.

Haaken, a UW psychology graduate and former UW medical nurse, became involved in the women’s health care movement in the 1970s through her work as a nurse. After going further into academia and eventually doing field research in Sierra Leone, Haaken realized that field notes might not be enough to tell the stories unfolding before her, and she has since created several feature-length documentaries on topics ranging from refugees to drag queens.

“[Making documentaries] feels more democratic, in a way, to take complex themes or ideas informed by research findings into a framework where [the audience can] feel like they are real people grappling with these issues,” Haaken said. “It’s not just graphs, charts and data.”

The film takes great care in its depiction of abortion doctors and their patients. Camera angles are carefully positioned to respect patients’ privacy without being overtly medical, and throughout each procedure presented, doctors care deeply about the physical and emotional state of their patients. Operating in one of the most scrutinized medical fields by the public, physicians demonstrate immense resilience and pride in their profession.

“These physicians were very inspiring, both in their skills but also in their integrity and ethical commitment to doing this work,” Haaken said. “They get up every day and walk the gauntlet to do this job during times when doctors have been threatened with violence [and harassment].”

One of the main topics covered by the film is the de-stigmatization of abortions that occur beyond the first trimester. Due to much of the incorrect and obscene imagery frequently used by pro-life conservatives, pro-choice circles are often hesitant to bring up the small percentage of abortions outside of the first trimester. “Our Bodies Our Doctors” features several doctor-to-doctor chats about these types of abortions to demystify the procedure.

Haaken’s goal of including these types of abortions in the film’s content speaks to the film’s messages of reproductive justice, a movement created by black feminists in the 1990s. The movement discusses the broader intersectional issues at play regarding abortion, such as access to health care, income, race and LGBTQIA+ rights. It is important to discuss abortions beyond the first trimester because many factors prevent timely access to abortion, especially among people from marginalized and low-income backgrounds.

“Nobody will blame you for not having received further medical treatment and for waiting a few months because of the circumstances in your life,” Haaken said. “But if you wait to have an abortion [in the second trimester]you are seen as lazy, irresponsible and suffer these threats.

The film also raises concerns about access to abortion at local hospitals. Hospitals that receive Catholic funding have the right to deny abortion to any patient, including abortions that will save patients’ lives or when the fetus is no longer viable. In Washington, more than 40 percent of hospital beds are overseen by Catholic-funded hospitals that do not include abortion in their health care.

“We live in these blue states that are very liberal and progressive when it comes to abortion laws, but they are also states where … the only place for several miles is a Catholic hospital that may not provide care for you. health,” Haaken said. “I think that’s a struggle that we have to continue to face, it’s control of our hospital systems and our health care plans.”

Haaken said the most surprising aspect of making the film was how many people were happy to have their abortion filmed for the documentary.

“Patients have the right to speak to the media about their care as well as the right to privacy,” Haaken said. “They agreed [to be filmed], saying it was their way of expressing their gratitude to these doctors. They knew it was a movie starring doctors and focusing on the work of doctors. I was surprised there were nine or 10 women who agreed to have a team in the room when they had their procedure. It was an emotional aspect of making the film.

Although the documentary was filmed before COVID-19 and the overthrow of Roe v. Wade, he remains a highly relevant film that portrays abortions for exactly what they are – a safe medical procedure that should have remained federally protected. The film is a realistic and moving portrayal of abortions and those who perform them, showing viewers that abortions are no scarier than any other medical procedure.

More information on how to stream or purchase “Our Bodies Our Doctors” can be found on the film’s website.

Contact Natalie Roy, General Sections Editor, at arts@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @nataliedroy

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