South Australian filmmaker Maddie Parry almost didn’t make the first instalment of her new documentary series ‘Maddie Parry: Inside the clinic’ which sees her work as a support worker in an abortion clinic in suburban Melbourne.
With little understanding of the physical, mental and emotional complexities that surround abortion -- a decision one in three Australian women will make in their lifetime -- Parry felt the taboo and incredibly personal topic was too much to tackle.
However, after speaking with an abortion doctor -- one of only a few in Australia -- she learnt the biggest problem with abortion was that most people didn't know enough about it.
“I was worried about making a film because I didn’t know enough about the topic, but that is exactly the problem,” Parry told The Huffington Post Australia.
The episode, which premieres on Wednesday night at 9.30pm on ABC2 is a part of a three-part series which sees Parry work in some of Australia’s most divisive workplaces -- an abortion clinic, a receptionist in a brothel and a logger cutting down native forests in Tasmania.
It took six weeks working as a support worker in the abortion clinic before the nurses and doctors felt comfortable for Parry to begin filming.
One of the nurses, Diane, reveals she keeps her job a secret from friends and acquaintances after she had received some bad reactions. Surprisingly, she agrees to be filmed.
After a particularly confronting scene where Parry advises she will witness the termination of a 20-week pregnancy although, will not be filming it, Parry asked nurse Diane how she’s able to leave work at work.
“Because it’s their choice, it’s their decision -- I’m not helping them make the decision, I’m just looking after them and making sure they are safe,” Diane responds.
Parry spent time with anti-abortion activists even visiting the home of Teresa, a woman who gave birth, despite tests revealing twice that both of her unborn children had anencephaly -- a terminal illness where the foetus’ brain doesn’t properly develop.
“Although she knew they could only survive a few days, she gave birth to both babies,” Parry said.
The biggest challenge Parry faced however, was speaking with the very women facing the decision of abortion.
Roughly 40 women attended the clinic each week, with one or two agreeing to be a part of the project, anonymously -- however, sometimes none.
“After nine weeks in the clinic, I’m discovering there are as many reasons for abortion as there are women who have them,” Parry said.
She speaks to Daisy, 18, and Rebecca, 45, who both say age is a contributing factor to their decision as well as Peta, 31, who reveals the father of her unborn child is physically abusive and she is terminating as she is terrified he will come after her if he knew about the pregnancy.
But perhaps the most tragic event was when Parry learns of a 14-year-old girl who, after being raped was terminating her pregnancy at 17 weeks.
“That affected me so much as I didn’t get to hear the full details her the story,” Parry said.
“The mother of the girl came up to me after I informed her I was making a documentary project and welcomed her to contribute, she said she really wanted to share her story for people to understand but when we sat down to speak she couldn’t stop crying and couldn’t get a single word out,” Parry said.
“Her daughter was quite visibly and heavily pregnant and the fact that the mother couldn’t even express what she felt in the face of such a terrible situation said so much to me about how important it is to have safe abortion available,” Parry told HuffPost Australia.
Maddie Parry: Inside The Clinic airs on Wednesday at 9.30pm on ABC2. Brothel Hostess is on December 9 and Tassie Logger on December 16.