October, 2015. More than 50 people attend a screening of the documentary, Vessel, in Brunswick and a discussion about access to reproductive healthcare in Maine. The event, sponsored by Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights and the Maine Alliance for Reproductive Freedom, draws a multi-generational crowd including students from nearby Bowdoin College. The film, first released in 2014, is an inspiring story chronicling a Dutch gynecologist, Dr. Rebecca Gomperts’ campaign to change the political climate for safe and legal abortion worldwide. Ultimately, she creates a bold underground network of activists who train women to give themselves abortions using World Health Organization researched protocols with pills. The women’s stories of desperation, isolation, and danger drive the film’s narrative.
A panel discussion following the film featured representatives from the ACLU, GRR, Maine Family Planning, and the Maine Legislature. There are still many financial and geographic barriers to accessible reproductive healthcare in a rural state like Maine. Educating the public about these challenges is an important step towards resolving them.