OUR BODIES OUR DOCTORS tells the rarely-discussed story of what it means to be an abortion provider today. This film provides a crucial, hopeful point of view: an intimate glimpse into the lives of these courageous providers who have devoted their careers to ensuring women have access to skilled, compassionate care despite confronting threats of violence and facing intensified political threats and efforts to criminalize abortion.
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Abortion doctors, reproductive justice, and a fight for the heart and soul of American medicine.
“Our Bodies Our Doctors” tells the story of a rebellion in the field of medicine as a cohort of physicians faces abortion stigma within their own profession and confronts religious control over health care decisions. Their fight takes them into a larger struggle over the heart and soul of American medicine and a feminist vision of healthcare.
It was not very long after the passage of Roe v Wade in 1973 that abortion clinics and doctors came under attack by anti-abortion activists. With clinic bombings, death threats, and harassment targeting providers and their families, it appeared by the 1990s that few doctors were willing to provide this service. But beneath the surface, a quiet rebellion was taking place in the field of medicine. A number of doctors came out publicly as abortion providers, even as the many in the medical community viewed them as “rogue physicians.” This rebellion depended heavily on working with freestanding clinics and a new generation of female doctors coming into medicine.
The documentary features physicians of different generations who came to train in Oregon and Washington, states with some of the most liberal abortion laws, and follows one of these physicians as she travels to clinics in the South where there are few providers. The stories of these doctors are as deeply personal as they are political. Entering their daily work lives, we get a feeling for their connections with their patients and other practitioners and how those relational aspects of the work sustain them. We see how they incorporate feminist principles in thinking through ethical dilemmas associated with abortion care.
“Our Bodies Our Doctors” takes viewers behind the scenes and into abortion clinics, pulling back the curtain on what remains one of the most stigmatized and mystified procedures in the health care field.
The project began in 2016 with production of a short film titled “Being There” directed by Jan Haaken and produced by Lisa Harris and Jane Hassinger through the Providers Share team at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor and funded through a grant from the Society of Family Planning. “Being There” was guided by anti-stigma research carried out by the team with the aim of bringing their key findings into the medium of a documentary. The team also sought to reclaim visual culture—spaces dominated by scary and gruesome images of abortion and demonized portraits of providers. The film tells a story of how health care professionals rely on abortion providers to be there for their patients, even as much of the medical field distances itself from this politically charged area of healthcare and of women’s lives. Through the production of “Being There,” Haaken discovered that there was a larger and little-known story to be told about this quiet rebellion in the medical field and how these inspiring physicians passed knowledge on to the next generation of providers. A new production team was formed to produce “Our Bodies Our Doctors” as a feature-length film with the support of the Portland State University Foundation and the PSU Department of Psychology.