Film series: On Demand, Without Apology: Abortion and Bodily Autonomy

image from the film HAPPENING (L'EVENEMENT)

The recent and controversial Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has sparked intense reactions in the American public. Cornell Cinema’s series On Demand, Without Apology: Abortion and Bodily Autonomy features a collection of films that address abortion as health care, its history, and the destructive consequences that abortion bans create in the US.

Legal abortion is fundamentally about bodily autonomy and the right to choose. In addition, bans overlook the fact that abortion is also often a necessary and life-saving medical procedure preformed in instances of pregnancy loss, miscarriages, and other complications.

These films address the physical, emotional, legal, and existential crises that occur when access to essential health care is denied. The films in this series take different approaches to the topic resulting in a thought-provoking exercise to address one of the most pressing issues in national (and global) history. 

Happening (L'événement) by French director Audrey Diwan is based on Annie Ernaux’s semi-autobiographical novel. The film is set in 1963, when abortion was still illegal in France. Young Anne (played by Anamaria Vartolomei) learns that she is expecting and desperately seeks help to terminate the pregnancy— even risking her life in the process. Winner of Best Film at the Venice Biennale, Happening is a suspenseful reflection on the importance of choice, and the ways abortion bans place women’s lives in danger. Rolling Stone calls Happening the “most urgent movie of 2022.”

The Janes will be screened with a special visit from the filmmakers Tia Lessin ’86 and Emma Pildes and a post-screening panel discussion to talk about abortion access, both pre-Roe and post-Dobbs. The Janes is a documentary on the history of abortion in Chicago before Roe v. Wade and the initiatives of activists to help women access safe abortions. The Janes stresses the power of protest and the ability for small groups to incite real change. 

Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always, directed by Eliza Hittman, portrays the journey of a 17 year old girl who crosses state lines into NYC seeking an abortion. Accompanied by her best friend, the teen overcomes many physical, legal, and financial hurdles to receive medical care. This coming-of-age story shows how an unplanned pregnancy can jeopardize a young person’s future, and the power of friendship to endure any challenge.  

Lori Felker: Intrusions and Interruptions: scholar, performer, and director Lori Felker will appear in person at Cornell Cinema to present several of her short films and shorts by other directors that confront some of the unspoken realities of pregnancy: lactation and the working mother miscarriage, loss and abortion, motherhood and individual identity, as well as a discussion of the parallels between pregnant and trans bodies.  Felker does not shy away from the taboo and uses humor to address difficult subjects including miscarriage. This screening will look unabashedly at abortion and reproduction rights to prompt critical discussion of bodily autonomy and biopolitics.  

This series is co-sponsored by the Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program and the Performing & Media Arts Department. 

Related films

Scene from the film Happening



Scene from the film Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always

Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always


Scene from the film The Janes

The Janes