The North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute is pleased to bring you cov­er­age of the Seat­tle Inter­na­tion­al Film Fes­ti­val for a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year.

SIFF 2019 began Sat­ur­day, May 16th and runs through June 9th at mul­ti­ple the­aters through­out the Seat­tle area. There are over four hun­dred films at the fes­ti­val this year, includ­ing sev­en­ty-one documentaries.

With respect to our cov­er­age, I’ll be pri­or­i­tiz­ing films with a Pacif­ic North­west con­nec­tion and films zero­ing in on crit­i­cal social jus­tice issues.

Our Bod­ies Our Doc­tors fits both of those cri­te­ria. Direct­ed by Port­land State Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus Jan Haak­en and fea­tur­ing doc­tors in the Seat­tle and Port­land areas, this doc­u­men­tary goes behind the scenes of wom­en’s health clin­ics in Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon, and Okla­homa, and under­scores the impor­tance of not just access to abor­tion, but the imper­a­tive of repro­duc­tive jus­tice for all.

Repro­duc­tive jus­tice is a con­cept devel­oped in the mid-1990s by black women advo­cates to view repro­duc­tive health care not as in issue sep­a­rate from oth­er issues, but inter­sec­tion­al­ly with oth­er issues impact­ing their lives.

Dr. Willie Park­er, MD, Obstet­rics and Gyne­col­o­gy (OBGYN), ever-quotable in this film, says “We should be mal­ad­just­ed to the norms that under­mine women, and we should be non­con­formists with laws or poli­cies that are not root­ed in justice.”

Since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court deci­sion in 1973, many states have passed laws restrict­ing abor­tion. Over three-hun­dred such laws were passed in state leg­is­la­tures in the Unit­ed States between 2010 and 2016 alone. And of course just in the last week or so, some of the most restric­tive laws have passed in states like Alaba­ma and Georgia.

No mat­ter how many laws are passed to restrict abor­tion, how­ev­er, the prac­tice will con­tin­ue; the laws sim­ply make abor­tion less safe.

“As long as women get preg­nant, abor­tion is going to need to be around,” says Dr. Andrea Chi­avari­ni, MD, an OBGYN.

Chi­avari­ni lives in Port­land, Ore­gon but trav­els to Okla­homa City, Okla­homa and Wichi­ta, Kansas on reg­u­lar basis to per­form abor­tions, as there are few doc­tors and clin­ics that per­form abor­tions in those states.

Dr. Chi­avari­ni says that she and the nurs­es and oth­er staff in clin­ics encour­age women to own their own deci­sions about their lives and bod­ies, some­times reas­sur­ing women that they have noth­ing to feel sor­ry for if they decide to have an abor­tion. “Just because you are sad about some­thing does­n’t mean it is the wrong thing to do,” says Dr. Chiavarini.

Said anoth­er doc­tor fea­tured in the film: “Just because the cir­cum­stances are neg­a­tive does­n’t mean that the pro­ce­dure is negative.”

Dr. Deb­o­rah Oyer, MD, fam­i­ly med­i­cine, who prac­tices in the Seat­tle area, says that the stig­ma around abor­tion will con­tin­ue if we don’t talk about it.

This was part of the inspi­ra­tion and pur­pose of the film, to show what real­ly hap­pens in clin­ics and to hear direct­ly from abor­tion providers.

Dr. Sarah Prager, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Obstet­rics and Gyne­col­o­gy at UW Med­i­cine, dis­cuss­es how most doc­tors are respect­ed and giv­en author­i­ty, yet that is not the case for doc­tors who pro­vide abor­tions. Rather they can be demo­nized and become tar­gets of vio­lent extremists.

Even with­in the med­ical com­mu­ni­ty, they can some­times feel iso­lat­ed, so the fam­i­ly plan­ning com­mu­ni­ty is very tight-knit and sup­port­ive of each other.

Some of this iso­la­tion is due to the fact that six­ty per­cent of abor­tions are per­formed in inde­pen­dent wom­en’s health clinics.

Around the time of the Roe v. Wade deci­sion, abor­tions were pro­vid­ed in hos­pi­tals and major med­ical cen­ters and were rather straight-for­ward, but for polit­i­cal rea­sons, many hos­pi­tals stopped pro­vid­ing them and the clin­ic move­ment started.

One ben­e­fit of the cre­ation of inde­pen­dent wom­en’s clin­ics was the move away from the patri­ar­chal mod­el of medicine.

“Health cen­ters based on a fem­i­nist mod­el, express­ing the val­ues of empow­er­ing women, it changes the very pater­nal­is­tic approach of ‘I’m the doc­tor and I know what’s best for you,’ ” says Dr. Parker.

Rather, clin­ics empow­er women to make their own deci­sions, and sup­port them through­out the process. How­ev­er, some laws are designed to con­fuse and com­pli­cate the process, in the hopes of reduc­ing abortions.

A med­ical assis­tant at the fea­tured Okla­homa City clin­ic dis­cuss­es the long state­ment that she must read to all patients sched­ul­ing an abor­tion at least sev­en­ty-two hours before their procedure.

She says state leg­is­la­tors “cloak laws in lan­guage that implies that they are med­ical­ly nec­es­sary, that they are about wom­en’s health, when actu­al­ly they inter­fere with our abil­i­ty to pro­vide safe health­care to people.”

Read­ing the state­ment, she says, con­fus­es and dis­tracts peo­ple, and may dis­cour­age them from ask­ing ques­tions they may have about the process.

Laws like the sev­en­ty-two hour state­ment in Okla­homa often do not pre­vent peo­ple from get­ting abor­tions, but rather, sim­ply delay them.

Which is some­what iron­ic, since many in the anti-repro­duc­tive free­dom move­ment are most vocal about abor­tions that hap­pen lat­er in pregnancy.

In the Unit­ed States, near­ly one in three women have an abor­tion at some point in their lives. Abor­tion is health­care. “Our Bod­ies Our Doc­tors” pro­vides a glimpse into the clin­ics and intro­duces us to some of the ded­i­cat­ed and pas­sion­ate doc­tors who pro­vide these nec­es­sary health ser­vices to women across the country.

The film has two screen­ings at SIFF, on May 30th and June 1st. See the film, then sup­port orga­ni­za­tions that pro­vide wom­en’s repro­duc­tive health­care and those that fight against laws lim­it­ing wom­en’s access to care.

You can also donate to sup­port the film get­ting screened more widely.

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