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Abortion Democracy:

Poland/South Africa

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. 

Documentary Film
Written and Directed by Sarah Diehl
Germany 2008
Language: English/Polish with English subtitles
Assistant Director/ Video Editor: Becky Ofek

Abortion Democracy - Poland/South Africa was awarded "BEST FILM BY A GERMAN FILMMAKER" at the XXIV. BLACK INTERNATIONAL CINEMA BERLIN 2009, the annual Intercultural/Interdisciplinary Film Festival in Berlin.

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 judgemental 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.

The film is suitable for medical staff/students, politicians, lawyers, members of NGOs because it raises a variety of interesting questions concerning access to medical support, development, womans and human rights, laws and policies as well as existential questions about self-determination. Therefore Abortion Democracy is used for educational programmes in the realm of reproductive rights and health care all over the world.

Abortion Democracy lets its subjects speak for themselves. Interviews include personal stories from activists, researchers, health staff, patients and other men and women who live with the problems every day. It is a thought provoking and challenging film for any audience interested in the international struggle for human rights.

Interviews with


Wanda Nowicka - Federation for Women and Family Planning, Warsaw
Anna Lipowska-Teutsch - TIK (Towarzystwo Interwencji Kryszysowej, Crisis Intervention Center, Krakow) 
Alicja Tysiac - Sued the Polish government in landmark EU court case because of a denied abortion and her resulting visual impairment, Warsaw
Beata Zaduminska - Centrum Praw Kobiet, Krakow 
Anna Zawadzka - Editor, Gazetta Wyborcha, Instigated the failed Polish "I had an abortion" Campaign, Warsaw
Ewa Waszkiewicz - social and legal scientist, University of Wroclaw
Michal Placzek - Pro-Choice Alliance, Warsaw

South Africa

Noluthando Ntlokwana - Woman Legal Center, Cape Town 
Awino Okeck - Mother Tongue Theater, Cape Town
Marijke Alblas - Doctor, Cape Town
Richard Burzelmann - Coordinator of Abortion Services in Western Cape Province
Nurrudin Farrah - Somali Author, lives in Cape Town
Sister Ida Frawces - Nurse, Public Health Care Center, Atlantis
Liz - Young pregnant homeless woman, Cape Town
Jane Harries - Women Health Research Unit, Medical School, Cape Town
Sister M. - Nurse, Public Health Care Center, Atlantis
Marion Stevens - Reproductive Right Alliance (RRA), Cape Town
Marieta de Vos - Mosaic Health Care Center for Women, Cape Town