Abortion and Women's Rights 1970

A film by Catha Maslow, Jane Pincus, Mary Summers, and Karen Weinstein

US | 2023 | 28 minutes | B/W | DVD | English |

The first film ever made about the struggle for abortion rights in the U.S., originally released in 1970, this powerful archival piece documents women’s voices from a pre-Roe v. Wade era.

SYNOPSIS

Abortion and Women’s Rights 1970 is the first documentary ever made about supporting abortion rights in the United States. Now available for the first time digitally, this film, made by women activists in before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, allows women to tell stories about their illegal abortions. White, Black, and Latino organizers speak out about high rates of Black maternal mortality, forced sterilization, and drug testing on people of color. They call for universal health care. This film’s extraordinary archival footage reminds us of the conditions and demands that drove the movement for women’s and abortion rights fifty years ago. And inspires us to fight for reproductive justice today.

This 28 minute film provides a unique window into a critical moment in history that can be used in courses in women and gender studies, feminist studies, sociology, American history, politics, law, health and medicine, film and media. It also provides ideal programming for campus and women’s centers seeking to promote thoughtful discussions about critical issues of our times.

View the Filmmakers' Abortion and Women's Rights 1970 Website

PRESS

"The film was ahead of its time in that it called for intersectional demands, including an acknowledgment of the troubling treatment of Black and Puerto Rican women, including forced sterilization."

"The film tells the illegal-abortion stories of two women—one working class, one middle class—and highlights their fears, financial strains, and health worries. It also. . . tackles the fact that the vast majority of women dying from illegal abortions were poor women of color. The film’s conclusion speaks to the broader issues of what women need in order to live healthy lives, including decent jobs, health care, child care, and an end to poverty and racial discrimination."

"A film that serves as a powerful reminder of the conditions and demands that inspired the movement for abortion rights 50 years ago. . . At a time when the world wasn’t very intersectional, the[se] stories are."

"Women’s outrage and the creative bravery of determined activists drive this raw documentary of 1970, when women’s demands to make abortion legal and accessible were starkly radical.  Illuminating that moment in a unique nitty-gritty perspective, the film offers sobering lessons for the present."

Nancy F. Cott, Jonathan Trumball | Research Professor of American History, Author Of The Grounding Of Modern Feminism

SCREENING HIGHLIGHTS AND AWARDS

  • Archival Video Award 2022, Berkeley Video and Film Festival

ABOUT FILMMAKER(S)

Catha Maslow

Catha Maslow started to work on the "Abortion film," what they originally called ABORTION AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS 1970, after dropping out of a PhD program for a Master's degree in psychology. Although she had a life-long interest in understanding human nature, and was grateful to be able to study at Brandeis with her cousin Abraham Maslow during his last years of teaching, she found the anti-war, women’s and spiritual movements much more compelling at that time. For the two years after finishing the film, she was part of a consciousness-raising women’s group. In 1973, she moved from Boston to Warwick, NY to live in a community involved in spiritual development based on the ideas of Gurdjieff. There she met her husband David, an artist, and they had two sons, who both married and had children. Continuing her education, she studied family therapy and hypnosis and received a Masters of Social Work. She worked as a beloved therapist until her death in 2015. (3/23)

Jane Pincus

Jane Pincus’ anti-war and civil rights work during the 1960s segued organically into the growing second wave of the women’s movement in Cambridge, MA. While a mother of two young children, along with five other women she responded to the many voices asking for a film to be made about abortion and women’s rights. At the same time, she became one of the co-founders of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, co-authoring the seminal women’s health book Our Bodies, Ourselves. Its 1970 Free Press edition was followed by at least nine more editions, and over the next fifty years, has been translated and adapted into thirty-six languages. Throughout these five decades, Jane has testified and advocated both for maternity health care and reform and for reproductive choice and justice, while pursuing her other practice as an artist at janepincus.com. She lives in a small town in central Vermont with her children and two of her three grandsons. (3/23)

Mary Summers

Before becoming a co-director of ABORTION AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS 1970, Mary Summers participated in the civil rights and anti-war movements, SDS and the Harvard student strike of 1969. As a senior in college, she became interested in filmmaking and joined the collective making the “Abortion Film.” After they finished the movie, Summers sought jobs in health care. She became a Physician Assistant and worked in community health centers in Boston and a community hospital in Cleveland, while continuing to be involved in political organizing. She was also a speechwriter for Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign and Harriett Woods’ 1986 campaign for Senate in Missouri. Impressed by the Family Farm Movement’s mobilization for more sustainable agricultural policies in those years, she studied the history of farmers’ organizing efforts, when she decided to go to graduate school in political science. She is now a Senior Fellow with the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, where she taught service-learning courses on the politics of food and agriculture, and schools, health, and inequality for many years. She also serves on the board of Philadelphia Jobs with Justice. She has written articles for The Nation, Urban Affairs Quarterly, Political Science and Politics, the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Agricultural History and several edited volumes. (3/23)

Karen Weinstein

Karen Weinstein is one of the co-directors of ABORTION AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS 1970. Weinstein – who had her own illegal abortion, blindfolded in a locked room – remembers those very turbulent years before Roe V. Wade, when hundreds of women died from illegal abortions. She became involved in making the “Abortion Film,” as it was then referred to, with the hope that it could be used to save women's lives. After the film, Weinstein continued to fight for women's rights. She trained with Emerge CA to run for office and subsequently held elected office in the area of education. She was Chair of the California Democratic Party Women’s Caucus, as well as Advisor to Close the Gap CA, which is a statewide campaign to achieve gender equality in the Ca. Legislature. She is Policy Chair of the American Association of University Women, Berkeley. She directed three videos: A New Generation of Democratic Women Leaders, Run for the County Central Committee and From Community College to Elected Office. Assembly woman Nancy Skinner named her Woman of the Year and multiple organizations, including California Young Democrats, Berkeley City College, and Democratic Women have given her awards her leadership, contribution to public service and for being an inspiration to young women. (3/23)

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