In dozens of abortion documentaries, in both traditional media and today's wider swath of digital media platforms, telling has been successfully mobilized to construct a collective, visible, political subject who demands a universalized set of legal and social rights over her reproductive capacities, desires, and possibilities. And yet, despite decades of productive telling, reproductive rights advocates are arguably losing the culture war over abortion. I argue that the feminist audiovisual campaign in support of abortion has failed to fully exploit the possibilities of showing. Both of these strains of feminist documentary—those that show and those that tell—wind their way back to the early 1970s and continue to resonate in contemporary digital media productions. Although the now-dominant tradition of telling has been vital to the production of feminist subjectivity, I explore why the audiovisual struggle over abortion rights may require additional emphasis on showing.

References

References
Alcoff
Linda Marie
.
2000
.
“Phenomenology, Post-structuralism, and Feminist Theory on the Concept of Experience.”
Feminist Phenomenology
40
:
39
56
.
Berlant
Lauren
.
2000
.
“The Subject of True Feeling: Pain, Privacy, and Politics.”
In
Transformations: Thinking Through Feminism
, edited by
Ahmed
Sarah
,
33
47
.
New York
:
Routledge
.
Brownmiller
Susan
.
(1969)
2012
.
“Everywoman's Abortions: ‘The Oppressor Is Man.”
In
Before Roe v. Wade: Voices That Shaped the Abortion Debate
,
2nd ed.
, edited by
Greenhouse
Linda
Siegel
Reva
,
127
30
.
New Haven
:
Yale Law Library
.
Combahee River Collective
.
(1977)
1983
.
“The Combahee River Collective Statement.”
In
Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology
, edited by
Smith
Barbara
,
264
74
.
New York
:
Kitchen Table
.
Davis
Kathy
.
2007
.
The Making of Our Bodies, Ourselves
.
Durham, NC
:
Duke University Press
.
de Lauretis
Teresa
.
1987
.
Technologies of Gender: Essays on Theory, Film, and Fiction
.
Bloomington
:
Indiana University Press
.
DeSouza
Fernanda
.
2014
.
“New Jersey Woman Films Her Own Abortion While Humming.”
Observer
,
May
6
. observer.com/2014/05/new-jersey-woman-films-her-own-abortion-while-humming/.
Gaines
Jane
.
1999
.
“The Real Returns: Introduction.”
In
Collecting Visible Evidence
, edited by
Gaines
Jane
Renov
Michael
,
1
18
.
Minneapolis
:
University of Minnesota Press
.
Gaines
Jane
.
2002
.
“Of Cabbages and Authors.”
In
A Feminist Reader in Early Cinema
, edited by
Bean
Jennifer
Negri
Diane
,
89
118
.
Durham, NC
:
Duke University Press
.
Gillooly
Jane
.
1994
.
Leona's Sister Gerri
.
New Day Films
.
Grant
Judith
.
1993
.
Fundamental Feminism: Contesting the Core Concepts of Feminist Theory
.
New York
:
Routledge
.
Gratz
Roberta Brandes
.
1973
.
“Abortion Victims: Never Again.”
Ms.
,
April
.
Haraway
Donna
.
1999
.
“The Visual Speculum in the New World Order.”
In
Revisioning Women, Health, and Healing
, edited by
Clarke
Adele E.
Olesen
Virginia L.
,
49
96
.
New York
:
Routledge
.
Harding
Sandra
.
2004
.
“Introduction: Standpoint Theory as a Site of Political, Philosophic, and Scientific Debate.”
In
The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader: Intellectual and Political Controversies
, edited by
Harding
Sandra
,
1
16
.
New York
:
Routledge
.
Hiris
Lori
.
1989
.
With a Vengeance: The Fight for Reproductive Freedom
.
New York, NY
:
Women Make Movies
.
Hoffman
Jan
.
1992
.
“‘Romper Room’ Host on Her Abortion Case.”
New York Times
,
June
16
. www.nytimes.com/1992/06/16/movies/romper-room-host-on-her-abortion-case.html.
Jackson
Angie
.
2010
.
“Abortion.”
www.youtube.com/watch?v=59Ud3g2ymOM.
Juhasz
Alexandra
.
1994
.
“They Said We Were Trying to Show Reality - All I Want to Show Is My Video: The Politics of the Realist Feminist Documentary.”
Screen
35
, no.
2
:
171
90
.
Karol
David
.
2009
.
Party Position Change in American Politics: Coalition Management
.
Cambridge
:
Cambridge University Press
.
Kimport
Katrina
Sisson
Gretchen
.
2014
.
“Telling Stories about Abortion: Abortion Related Plots in Film and Television: 1916–2013.”
Contraception
89
:
413
18
.
Kimport
Katrina
.
2015
.
“Abortion Onscreen.”
ANSIRH: Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health
. www.ansirh.org/research/abortion-onscreen.php.
Kline
Wendy
.
2010
.
Bodies of Knowledge: Sexuality, Reproduction, and Women's Health in the Second Wave
.
Chicago
:
University of Chicago Press
.
Kruks
Sonia
.
2001
.
Retrieving Experience: Subjectivity and Recognition in Feminist Politics
.
Ithaca, NY
:
Cornell University Press
.
Landau
Joel
.
2014
.
“SEE IT: New Jersey Abortion Counselor Films Her Own Procedure for Online Film.”
Daily News
,
May
6
. www.nydailynews.com/news/national/abortion-counselor-films-operation-article-1.1781689.
Lazarus
Margaret
Wunderlich
Renner
.
1974
.
Taking Our Bodies Back
.
Cambridge Documentary Films
.
Lesage
Julia
.
1978
.
“The Political Aesthetics of the Feminist Documentary Film.”
Quarterly Review of Film Studies
vol.
3
, no.
4
:
507
523
.
Letts
Emily
.
2012
.
“Emily's Abortion Video.”
vimeo.com/84797427.
Letts
Emily
.
2014
.
“Why I Filmed My Abortion.”
Cosmopolitan
,
May
5
. www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/a6674/why-i-filmed-my-abortion/.
Luker
Kristin
.
1984
.
Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood
.
Berkeley
:
University of California Press
.
MacGibbon
Heather
.
2009
.
Screening Choice: The Abortion Issue in American Film from 1900–2000
.
Saarbrücken
:
VDM Verlag
.
Murphy
Michelle
.
2004
.
“Immodest Witnessing: The Epistemology of Vaginal Self-Examination in the U.S. Feminist Self-Help Movement.”
Feminist Studies
30
, no.
1
:
115
47
.
.
2014
.
“New Jersey Abortion Counselor Films Own Abortion.”
,
May
6
. www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/new-jersey-abortion-counselor-films-own-abortion-n98566.
Nelson
Jennifer
.
2003
.
Women of Color and the Reproductive Rights Movement
.
New York
:
New York University Press
.
Petchesky
Rosalind Pollack
.
1987
.
“Fetal Images: The Power of Visual Culture in the Politics of Reproduction.”
Feminist Studies
13
, no.
2
:
263
92
.
Phillips
Kyra
Jackson
Angie
.
2010
.
CNN Newsroom Interview with Jackson (uploaded under title “Woman Tweets during Abortion”)
.
YouTube
,
March
8
. www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sAidmCIvt8.
Ratliff
George
.
2001
.
Hell House
.
GreenHouse Pictures
.
Rickman
Dina
.
2014
.
“Woman Films Her Own Abortion: Even Pro-choicers Are Appalled.”
Telegraph
,
May
7
. www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/10814223/Emily-Letts-abortion-video-even-pro-choicers-are-appalled.html.
Robespierre
Gillian
.
2014
.
Obvious Child
.
Rooks Nest Entertainment
.
Rothschild
Amalie
.
1972
.
It Happens to Us
.
New Day Films
.
Rudulph
Heather Wood
.
2014
.
“Why I Filmed My Abortion.”
Cosmopolitan
,
May
5
. www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/a6674/why-i-filmed-my-abortion/.
Sandlos
Karyn
.
2000
.
“Unifying Forces: Reflections on a Pro-choice Image.”
In
Transformations: Thinking through Feminism
. Edited by
Ahmed
Sarah
et al.  
,
77
91
.
London
:
Routledge
.
Scott
Joan W.
1991
.
“The Evidence of Experience.”
Critical Inquiry
17
, no.
4
:
773
97
.
Schulder
Diane
Kennedy
Florynce
.
1971
.
Abortion Rap
.
New York
:
McGraw Hill
.
Stabile
Carol
.
1998
.
“Shooting the Mother: Fetal Pornography and the Politics of Disappearance.”
In
The Visible Woman: Imaging Technologies, Gender, and Science
, edited by
Treichler
Paula A.
Cartwright
Lisa
Penley
Constance
,
171
97
.
New York
:
New York University Press
.
Walker
Janet
Waldman
Diane
.
1999
.
Feminism and Documentary
.
Minneapolis
:
University of Minnesota Press
.
Winter
Meaghan
.
2013
.
“My Abortion.”
New York Magazine
,
November
10
. nymag.com/news/features/abortion-stories-2013-11/.