Review of Silent Choices: Black Women and Abortion

20 May

The other day, I watched (and enjoyed) a documentary called Silent Choices. Silent Choices is about abortion and other reproductive justice issues in the black community. The idea itself is wonderful; black women’s experiences are often ignored in the mainstream media and pro-choice movement itself. This documentary uplifts black women’s voices, which is a wonderful change from the typically white-dominated talk about abortion.

This documentary¬† succeeds in showcasing black women’s abortion related stories. Too often, attempts to discuss the issues of marginalized groups end up as people speaking over these groups, as opposed to people allying with them. This is not one of those documentaries. The makers of Silent Choices let black women speak for themselves; for once, black women’s voices were uplifted, not trampled over.

Every woman in this documentary had a touching story to tell, but one woman’s story in particular really touched me. Angela shared her pre-Roe illegal, back alley abortion story. She was afraid to tell her mother because she had five kids, loved kids, and would probably forbid the abortion, but after thinking about it, Angela says that her mother “may have done the same,” recognizing that all types of women need and use abortion. Angela attempted to abort her pregnancy twice. The first time, the person who attempted the abortion on her simply gave her a shot and then punched her in the stomach. After this failed attempt, she went to someone else. She describes this back-alley clinic as “factory-like” and she says that the provider was mean to her. She says, “it wasn’t like you could call somebody and take your choice of a good clinic. You had to find somebody underground, you had to find somebody who did this stuff.” Angela is not alone in her experience. People of color are disproportionately affected by poverty, and therefore are disproportionately affected by restrictive anti-choice laws. A white woman is far more likely to be able to afford to travel, to take more days off of work, or to pay more in order to obtain a safe abortion. Angela, along with many other women, did not have those options. The more restrictions we put on abortion, the more stories like Angela we have. Reproductive justice is not simply an issue of sexism; it is also an issue of racism and classism.

One aspect of this documentary that disappointed me was how much air time was given to anti-choicers, particularly one male anti-choicer. At some point in the documentary, it went from being a film that uplifted black women’s voices to typical anti-choice babble that went without rebuttal. I’m not going to lie; I kind of nodded off while listening to the anti-choicers talk.

The documentary ended off with a montage of responses to this statement, made by an anti-choicer: “Abortion is a white woman’s issue.” I found it refreshing to see pro-choicers rebuking this ridiculous statement. Overall, I thought this documentary did a great job at uplifting black women’s voices and illustrating how abortion and other reproductive rights issues affect the black community. This film is easily worth the five dollars being asked for it; I recommend it.

2 Responses to “Review of Silent Choices: Black Women and Abortion”

  1. freewomyn May 20, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    Great review. My only point of disagreement is that I think Faith Pennick (the filmmaker) gave equal time to both sides of the discussion – and she ultimately ended the film on a pro-choice note. I think it was smart of her to show a balanced view.

    I really appreciated the nuanced discussion of the role of Planned Parenthood and Margaret Sanger. It was good to see multiple points of view from black leaders instead of recycling the trope that Margaret Sanger was a racist.

  2. ProChoiceGal May 20, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    Hey freewomyn (and others),

    it just occurred to me that the bit about anti-choice drivel might have sounded harsh. I do think that having so much air time dedicated to anti-choicers took away from the documentary, but that is just my personal opinion and I still think that, overall, Silent Choices was a great documentary that did end on a pro-choice note.

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