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Backroom Troubles

Film (Full Length) – 1997

In 1936 the McMillan Report indicated that more New Zealand women were dying from illegal abortions than anywhere else in the world. In March 2020 the Abortion Legislation Act removed abortion from the Crimes Act, finally securing the legal status of abortion in Aotearoa. In this documentary a group of Kiwi women who grew up in the 1940s, 50s and 60s (including Abortion Law Reform campaigner Dame Margaret Sparrow) talk about their often traumatising 'back room' abortions. They recall their lack of sex education, their feelings of shame and the social stigmas around female sexuality.

He started to point things out in the room. He had paintings and mirrors with great gilt frames and the walls were just covered in things, stuff he had accumulated and he was...showing us, saying how much they all cost, and at this stage I'd just given him 100 pounds cash. And I remember thinking 'you know it's girls like me who have given him all this money to buy these things on the wall' and I thought 'they're all little foetuses stuck up there...how do you live like that?
– Margaret MeGregor recalls her experience immediately after having a 'procedure' with a clandestine abortionist

Produced by

  • Vanguard Films

  • Community Media Trust