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Film Screening Tackles Abortion

By Alexa N. Gellman, Contributing Writer

Award-winning documentary “Severina’s Story” was screened at the Law School Tuesday night as part of an event called Interpreting Abortion. The event sought to foster an interdisciplinary conversation about the abortion debate.

“It is really important for the Harvard community to think about abortion in a more nuanced way,” said Lisa M. Kelly, a doctoral student at the Law School and the event organizer. “Abortion policy has real impacts on real people and it is also a more complex question sometimes than our debates suggest.”

Organizers said they wanted to present a discussion that approached abortion from various disciplines.

The documentary was directed by Debora Deniz, a bioethics professor at the Universidade de Brasilia, and followed the trail of Severina, a Brazilian woman whose planned abortion was interrupted at the last minute by a court ruling. Severina was carrying a child with anencephaly, an unsurvivable condition in which the fetus is missing the majority of its brain and skull. On the night Severina was hospitalized to undergo her procedure, the Brazilian Supreme Court overturned the injunction that allowed abortion in the case of anencephaly.

Diniz emphasized the personal impact of abortion on women’s lives in the post-film discussion.

“Severina is human, she is not a feminist thesis,” she said. “This allows us to have a connection with her.”

Diniz also said that a similar documentary would not have been made in the United States.

Harvard Law Professor Jeannie C. Y. Suk, one of the panelists at the event, said the film emphasized the “temporariness, uncertainty, inbetweeness” that women like Severina may face.

“[There is an] intense ambiguity about what is going on,” she said of Severina’s delivery. “Is it a birth or a death?”

Kate M. Aizpuru, a board-member of Harvard Law Students for Reproductive Justice, said she thought the documentary highlighted the complex issue well.

“I think it is very important to show that average, married women also get abortions, especially in the United States were there is a stigma that it is only single or fallen women getting abortions,” she said.

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