- Renee Bracey Shermanfounder and executive director of We Testify, an organization dedicated to the leadership and representation of people who have abortions, and executive producer of Ours to Tell.
As Roe v. Wade faces unprecedented attacks, the new short film “Ours to Tell” puts a human face to the fight for reproductive justice and highlights those whose stories are often sidelined by the media: LGBTQ communities and communities of color. The film focuses on Ylonda, Nick, Hannah and Brittany, four people who discuss how having access to abortion shaped their lives. The film was directed by Rayka Zehtabchi and was created by Planned Parenthood and We Testify. For more on the film, as well as the state of reproductive rights in the United States, we speak with Renee Bracey Sherman, founder and executive director of We Testify and the executive producer of “Ours to Tell.”
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to turn now to a new short film that’s challenging the stigma surrounding abortion, through the stories of four people reflecting on their own decisions to terminate a pregnancy. It’s called Ours to Tell. This is the film’s trailer.
TRAINER: Twenty. Come on, dig, Brick House.
NATASHA ROTHWELL: This is a plea for love and for freedom, that each of us is free not only to dream our best life, but that we have the freedom to live it. This is a demand for an end to judgment, an end to stigma, an end to silence, and an end to shame.
AMY GOODMAN: Ours to Tell was directed by Rayka Zehtabchi and created by Planned Parenthood and We Testify. We’re joined now here in Park City, Utah, by Renee Bracey Sherman, founder and executive director of We Testify, the film’s executive producer.
Welcome to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us.
RENEE BRACEY SHERMAN: Thank you so much for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you’re with We Testify. Explain your group.
RENEE BRACEY SHERMAN: Yeah. So, our organization is dedicated to the leadership and representation of people who have had abortions. For too long we have not been seen as the experts in the conversation about abortion. We’ve been left out. We’ve been kind of thought of as this abstract idea. And we’re the ones who are having abortions. We should be talking about it. And we should be represented with respect on television and in the news.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about your own experience.
RENEE BRACEY SHERMAN: Yeah. So, I had an abortion when I was 19. I was in an unsafe relationship, and I simply didn’t feel like I was ready to become a parent. And I was lucky. At that point I could just drive to the clinic 15 minutes from my home. I maxed out a credit card to pay for it. And the procedure took all of 10 minutes. But the reality is today that most people have to travel long distances. They have a hard time paying for their abortions. And it’s simply inaccessible, despite it being legal. And that’s what we’re hoping to bring light to and show, that people are having challenges in accessing it.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to another clip of Ours to Tell, where each of the four people featured in the film reflects on why they chose to terminate their pregnancy.
HANNAH: So, these are some things that I wrote when I was 18 years old. “I believe that any person has freedom to do what they would like to their own body. And if timing is not right or the mother is not ready, then she should have the right to choose whether she would like to have a child or not, just as I did.”
BRITTANY: I found out I was pregnant in May. Something in me was always just like, “No. No, girl. This ain’t it. And you can move beyond it somehow.”
YLONDA: I just remember closing my eyes, praying, and just, before I knew it, the words were coming out, and I said, “I can’t, Doctor. I can’t.” I knew I was at peace with it. I knew my god was at peace with it. And I think it was one of the first major decisions I made with no consideration of anyone else. I knew that I needed to be the best mother that I could be to the children I had.
NICK: I was just not in a place where I could physically or emotionally handle a pregnancy, let alone a child. I was just in a position where I felt absolutely trapped and terrified, and I just would not have been able to handle it.
HANNAH: Even then, I knew that this wasn’t the life that I was like — I wasn’t myself yet. I wasn’t whole. I wasn’t ready to be a good parent.
AMY GOODMAN: Ours to Tell, just a clip from that. Renee Bracey Sherman, talk about who the people are in the film, and also storytelling as a form of resistance.
RENEE BRACEY SHERMAN: Absolutely. So, Brittany and Ylonda are two black moms, raising their children, who had abortions. Hannah is a Mexican woman. And Nick is a Houston trans person, living in Houston, talking about the resistance and the power of trans people having abortions.
And I think storytelling is extremely important in this time when we have the president going to the March for Life, denigrating us; we have the secretary of education denigrating black people who have abortions. Our voices need to be heard, and we are speaking out that we had abortions. We’re making this decision for ourselves. And that’s what’s most important.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you so much, Renee Bracey Sherman, award-winning activist, founder and executive director of We Testify, executive producer of the new short film Ours to Tell, which is also produced by Planned Parenthood. You can see the full film at OursToTell.org. And that does it for our first broadcast from Park City, from the Sundance Film Festival.