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

By Kendra Hodgson and Emily Abi-Kheirs 

On May 2, Supreme Court Justice Alito’s draft majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was leaked, and the contents 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, and abortion access is endangered nationwide. 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 BIRTHRIGHT (dir. Civia Tamarkin) which documents the strategic and aggressive campaign to take control of reproductive health care and to allow states, courts and religious doctrine to govern whether, when and how women will bear children; to the 2020 Sundance Film Festival selection ABORTION HELPLINE that shows how economic stigma and cruel laws determine who has access to abortion in America; to FLY SO FAR (dir. Celina Escher), which looks at the criminalization of miscarriage in El Salvador, WMM is hoping to raise awareness and inspire discussion. Above all, we honor all the courageous people – especially women, non-binary, 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).


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.   


When miscarriage becomes 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.  


A film by Civia Tamarkin | US | 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.  


A film by Kate Kirtz and Nell Lundy | US | 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. 



A film by Erika Cohn, Produced by Angela Tucker, Nicole Docta & Christen Marquez | US | 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. 



A film by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater & Mike Attie | US | 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 | US | 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



A film by Gillian Aldrich and Jennifer Baumgardner | US | 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


A film by Lori Hiris | US | 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. 

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