Abortion Democracy: Poland/South Africa
Directed by Sarah Diehl
Why are illegal abortions more accessible in Poland than legal ones in South Africa?
This documentary feature explores and contrasts changes in Poland and South Africa regarding abortion laws and their impact on the lives of women.
In the 90’s, Poland banned abortion due to the increasing influence of the Catholic Church after the fall of communism; around the same time South Africa legalized it, reforming the health system after the fall of apartheid.
The film reveals how the legal status of women is a direct result of the silencing or empowering of women’s voices. In the Polish society and media, women’s perspectives were made invisible; in South Africa, on the other hand, they were invited to give public hearings in the parliament about problems in the realm of reproduction.
The film aims to emphasize the need for safe abortions and liberal abortion laws. It also, however, illustrates the paradox that the implementation of such laws may have little effect on the accessibility of abortion services. In Poland, for example, illegal abortions are quite available and relatively safe; in South Africa, where the law is very liberal, women have a harder time getting information and services in public hospitals due to judgmental behavior of the health staff. Only a change in the fundamental social and cultural attitudes towards abortion, contraception, and reproductive health can ensure a woman’s right to choose in a world where about 80.000 women die every year from unsafe abortions.