FEMINIST FRIDAY: Short Film Portrays Dystopian American Future Where Abortion Is Outlawed

A still image from ‘Gainsay’ short film.

Welcome to another edition of Feminist Friday! That time of the week where we choose 3 videos that we are loving right now, centered around a feminist theme. This week we’re doing something a little bit different, and will be highlighting one particular video, and recommending other films to compliment the subject matter as it is centered around topics that are very important to us – abortion, reproductive justice, and women’s rights.

‘Gainsay’ is a short film from actress and producer Zoë Simpson Dean which portrays a world in which abortion is once again outlawed in the United States. The film was selected as a finalist for an award at the Oaxaca Film Festival 2019 and debuted at the LA International Shorts Films Festival 2019. Perhaps more pertinent right now than film accolades is the message in this short, given what we are seeing across the US in terms of regressive reproductive health and outright hostile abortion restrictions.

Zoë is actress who also recently became a mother. She had always been passionately pro-choice, previously working for a leading nonprofit in the field as community outreach advocate. But throughout her pregnancy, she was moved to make an artistic statement on behalf of all of the people adversely affected by restrictive reproductive laws. At 8 months pregnant she produced and wrote ‘Gainsay’, her first short film. She partnered on the project with her long-time friend, director and DP, Steve Acevedo, who was also invested in the film’s message through his artistic lens.

‘Gainsay’ film poster

“Because the story takes place in a dystopian society, I wanted the visuals to feel off-kilter. I chose to limit the camera movement and to frame unconventionally. I often locked off the camera to represent the governments restrictiveness, while framing our main characters with an excessive amount of head room to show their despair and the heaviness of the world they’re currently living in,” he said in a statement.

The word “gainsay” means to deny or contradict, and as a detailed description on the film’s Facebook page outlines, this short is designed to make audiences think wider and deeper about the impact of abortion restrictions.

“There are numerous countries around the world where abortion is still illegal. For example, many Latin American countries have recently tightened their restrictions, and now three-quarters of all abortions there are illegal. According to the Guttmacher Institute, at least 23,000 women die worldwide every year from unsafe abortions. While abortion is still legal in the U.S., various states have enacted over 275 abortion restrictions within the past four years. Our film demonstrates the potential horrors of an abortion ban, while also highlighting the hypocrisy of a mindset that prohibits a woman’s choice, yet considers both her and her offspring a burden to society.” Watch the film in its entirety below:

GAINSAY (2019, 8:51) from Steve Acevedo on Vimeo.

This week, instead of sharing 2 more videos, we decided to share a list of powerful documentaries we highly recommend watching. These films are our go-to resource when it comes to outlining the wider and realistic impact of abortion restrictions both on a national and global level, and also showcase the nuance required in order to see how abortion is interconnected with issues such as maternal health, criminalization and infant wellbeing.

Two films that we have featured on our site are Jo Ardinger’s ‘Personhood‘ Documentary, and Civia Tamarkin and Luchina Fisher’s ‘Birthright: A War Story’. Both films highlight individual stories and the way the anti-abortion movement and the laws they have managed to implement state-by-state don’t decrease abortion rates or help children, they are increasingly working to criminalize pregnant women.

Dawn Porter’s ‘Trapped‘ gives insight into the way target regulation of abortion clinic laws are actually counter-productive to helping women and children.

Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg’s ‘Reversing Roe’, available on Netflix, gives you a great overview of the history of how the American Religious Right created the pro life movement and it’s widespread detrimental impact on women’s reproductive rights over the past 5 decades.

Tracy Droz Tragos’ ‘Abortion: Stories Women Tell’ gives the issue a human face and allows audiences to get emotionally involved in the lives of women at the center of these abortion decisions, from all across the political spectrum.

Here are other highly recommended titles which you can find on various platforms and streaming services including Amazon, iTunes, Youtube, Vimeo and more:

After Tiller


Motherhood by Choice, not Chance

12th & Delware

When Abortion Was Illegal: Untold Stories

No Woman No Cry

Death by Delivery

The Abortion Divide


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