Video: On 'the Loss to My Own Heart'

Documentary wrestles with the experience of abortion

Mothers in general figure prominently throughout the documentary—as supporters, as shamers, as doppelgangers in unwanted futures. As the daughter of a teenage mother who is the daughter of a teenage mother, Jenny Egan knew she didn't want to keep the child she conceived at 16. But the men in her life were also pivotal in her decision; her Republican, Mormon, lawyer, Marine father reviled premarital sex and her slacker boyfriend didn't look up from WWF long enough to make eye contact when she told him.

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video: Jenny Egan
image: 'Speak Out: I Had an Abortion'/speakoutfilms.com

She spent time desperately searching the Bible for forgiveness and found only confusion about the idea that "life doesn't begin until the quickening." She wondered what constituted "the quickening." Had she gotten to the clinic in time? "It didn't feel like I had aborted a baby," she says, "but it also didn't feel like I had done away with nothing."

Egan, now almost a decade older and, from the looks of her hipster haircut, many miles away from her straitlaced home, tells a chilling story of the day her parents found out. They received a letter in the mail that read: "Your daughter Jennifer had an abortion on April 9, 1997. Please let God guide your actions from this point forward. Signed, the Brotherhood." Her mother immediately laid into her, shredding her already fragile conscience with a barrage of outrage. "I can't believe you would do this!" she shouted. "You killed your baby!" To Egan's shock, her usually stern father "wrapped me up into a little ball," she says. "I was sobbing uncontrollably and he just held me and said, 'It's okay, it's okay, it's okay.' "

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video: "I had an Abortion" montage
image: 'Speak Out: I Had an Abortion'/speakoutfilms.com

A multifaceted story like this, of spiritual complexity and surprising compassion, makes the standard one-dimensional debate over abortion feel spurious. In a montage at the end of Speak Out: I Had an Abortion, we see a string of faces and hear an unassuming flow of voices make their own confessions. "My name is Sebastiana, and I had an abortion in 2000." They go on. "I had an abortion in 1973. I had an abortion in 1939. I've had three abortions. I had an abortion."

In the often disingenuous clamor over Roe v. Wade, such a dignified chorus deserves a place.


Visit www.speakoutfilms.com for details on upcoming screenings of Speak Out: I Had an Abortion.


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