Abortion Helpline This is Lisa

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa

Where You Can Stream It: YouTube

The Pitch: A 13-minute short which focuses on the workers of abortion helpline in Philadelphia, all of whom go by the name “Lisa” when they’re answering phone calls.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: It’s a quick but effective history lesson about the draconian Hyde Amendment, and a heartbreaking eavesdrop session into the trials and tribulations of women who desperately need help. Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa has also been shortlisted in the Documentary Short Subject category for this year’s Academy Awards, beating out over a hundred other shorts that qualified.

Here’s the YouTube link, but the film is also available on Topic:

In 1976, Republican Congressman Henry Hyde sponsored a bill that made it illegal for the federal government to provide funding for abortions, unless the procedure would save a woman’s life or if the child was the product of incest or rape. The Hyde Amendment, which is still in effect today, impacts untold numbers of women across 33 states who have government insurance but cannot use it to offset the cost of abortions.

I know the topic of abortion remains one of this country’s biggest hot-button issues, and I doubt this short film or my brief writing here will change anyone’s mind on such a divisive and personal issue. But if you’re able to take a step back for a moment and see how this legislation blatantly targets low-income women, it might – might – move your internal needle a fraction of a degree. “Do you care about the four million children today that live off of less than two dollars a day and live in extreme poverty?” Representative Gwen Moore asks in the clip, and with that question, she cuts directly to the core of this issue: why does the “pro life” mentality only extend to the moment a baby is born?

The frustrations raised in this short film are different than the ones that were explored in recent movies like Never Rarely Sometimes Always and Unpregnant, and the fact that all three of these projects exist at all speaks incredibly poorly of the way our government treats young women who become pregnant in this country and who choose – for a myriad number of reasons, some of which observers could hardly fathom – to terminate that pregnancy.

Again, I don’t expect any of this to really change anyone’s mind. The trenches in this culture war have been dug so deep that no single story could cause such a drastic change of perspective at this point. But as a portrait of pure empathy, Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa is an unmistakable success and worth thirteen minutes of your time.

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