Essay, Pages 6 (1382 words)
If These Walls Could Talk is a film that examines the issue of abortion through three different time periods: 1952, 1974, and 1996, and each story takes place in the same house. Through the three different characters, the audience views abortion from three different angles. The story that takes place in 1952 is about a young woman, Claire, who is a recently widowed nurse. During a grieving period of drinking she has a one night stand with her brother-in-law and becomes pregnant. Her only choice seems to be an illegal abortion.
Claire faces sexism with a doctor at work when she tries to ask for help. The male doctor had no sympathy for her what-so-ever and pretty much said it was all her fault. Claire finds it difficult to find a safe way to have the abortion because the safer it is, the more it costs. This is where her class comes in to play. Even though she lives in a nice house, she is now only bringing in her paycheck, which is probably not very much.
She has no family to turn to except her in-laws and she could never let them find out.
Unfortunately, her sister-in-law does discover the news and tells Claire that she needs to leave this town and have it somewhere else… how could she shame the family like that? When Claire tells her about abortion, Becky (the sister-in-law) looks at her in disgust and leaves the house. I think this is how many of the women during that time period viewed abortion.
Society thought of it as a moral sin, the woman was a horrible person for doing it. Those that did have an abortion never told anyone and lived with shame inside themselves. This attitude forced women who wanted abortions to go to extreme measures: trying to do it to themselves, going to “back-ally” doctors, or paying hefty prices. Women during this time period were dying and becoming infected due to such unsafe circumstances. In the end, Claire had a man named Tom come to her house to perform the abortion for $400 cash. It was done on her kitchen table. Tom did not wash his hands or disinfect his tools. When Claire began to question him, he almost left. It felt like he was treating her as just an animal or something, like she did not matter in the world. The man was very degrading. The operation looked very painful and he said there may be some cramping and bleeding. It turned out that Claire had massive hemorrhaging and she may have even died.
The second story took place in 1974, just after abortion became legal in the United States. Barbara is a middle-aged mother of four. Her children are all above the age of 12 and life is busy. She is back in college, working towards a teaching degree, her husband works nights, and her daughter is heading off to college next year. She discovers she is pregnant and has no idea what to do. Barbara thought she was done having kids, that she could start her career now. I think classism is the most relevant topic to her situation because the family is trying to pay for at least two quality educations on one salary. Her husband had wanted to retire early, her daughter wants to go to an expensive school, and Barbara wants to finish her degree. At the time, the culture seems more open to women having abortions. It is the beginning of a large movement for women’s rights.
She even has a friend who had an abortion and has no regrets. Barbara’s husband does not even seem to consider abortion when they are talking things through and she kept the idea inside her. He seems to think the only thing to do was to work things out and sacrifice some things. The role of who has the power in the household seems to show here. John, the husband and the main wage-earner, has a presence of being the leader, the boss. He does not seem to abuse this power, but rather, it just exists and Barbara does not challenge it. Although Barbara has more privilege than Claire, meaning abortions are more available and she could probably afford it, she still decides to have to baby. She says that she does not know if it is the right decision, but feels that it is the only one she can live with.
The final story that takes place in the house occurs in 1996. Chris is a college student who lives in the house with her best friend. She becomes involved with a professor and they have a secret affair that leaves Chris alone and pregnant. When the professor found out, he pretty much said goodbye and gave her money for an abortion. He did not want people to find out what had happened between them. This gesture of money also makes it seem like he has the power in the relationship. It is hard to decide which class topic relates to Chris’s story the most. I think I would go with classism because she is a college student, which means she is probably in debt or does not have a lot of money. Chris feels that she cannot support a child by herself and also feels the pressure of always being seen as the “good kid” of her strict Irish Catholic family. Her friend points out that Chris has never believed in abortions but Chris replies that she is a coward and a hypocrite. I think during this time period, even though abortions were legal, woman had limited access and much of society looked down on them.
When Chris visited the abortion clinic the first time, there was a small group of praying protestors who harassed her and told her they could help her. One woman went as far as to say, “I carry my baby in my arms, you carry yours inside. You are already a mother.” Chris could not go through with it that day, but after a drinking binge that evening she decided to return the next day, but she brought her best friend (even though she was against abortions). This time there was a huge crowd of rowdy protesters, yelling nasty things to her and being out of control. When Dr. Thompson showed up she had to wear a bullet proof vest to protect herself and she is constantly living a life of harassment. She cries quietly in her office before starting her day. She feels safe inside the clinic, since they are protected by the law, so she removes her vest. As Dr. Thompson performs the abortion, she explains everything to Chris. Chris asked why she did this for a living, how could she put up with all those people? The doctor replied that she just thinks of all the women she has helped and lives she may have saved from doing abortions safely. Just as Dr. Thompson was finishing up Chris’s abortion, a man burst in and shot the doctor about four times.
I thought this film was excellent. It showed me how abortion has changed throughout the decades, going from completely illegal, to completely legal, and now it seems to be very limited. I fear that one day it will return to being completely illegal again with the way things are going right now. I think every woman should have the choice. If it were to happen to me right now, even though it would be difficult, I would have the baby and either give it up for adoption or keep it. The reason I would choose this is because I have a strong relationship with my family, friends, and boyfriend. I have many people who would support me and help me through it. I think there are many people out there who are not as privileged as me and abortion may be the better choice for them. Women should have the right to their own bodies. Our current policy on abortions does not seem to give enough access to abortions as it should. The women who really need abortions are unable to get them due to lack of access, high costs, and no insurance. We need to keep fighting for our rights.