Private Project

Green Handkerchief

On August 8, 2018 the Argentinian Senate voted against legalising abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The law would have saved countless lives; according to Amnesty International more than 3,000 women have died over the last 25 years as the result of unsafe abortion. ​It continues to be a ​leading cause of maternal death, with a reported 500,000 illegal abortions taking place every year resulting in an estimated 80,000 women being hospitalised due to complications. Most of these women are open to face criminal charges as the ​current law, which dates back to 1921, only allows abortion in cases of rape or when the health of the mother is at risk.
On the night of the vote over 1 million women rallied outside the Senate, many wearing green handkerchief - the symbol of the campaign for legal abortion. United Nations estimate that for every two births there’s at least one abortion - which makes Argentina the country with one of highest abortion ratios in the world.
The film looks into the situation in Argentina’s capital a month after the vote. Demonstrations for a legal and safe access to abortion still take place with many demonstrators formally quitting the church, which is officially ​against legalising abortion​. Stories about new victims of DIY abortions emerge in the media. As Argentina prepares for the presidential elections in October 2019, the abortion debate is in the spotlight yet again.
The film’s narrative unfolds through a series of storylines. It opens with a story of Belén, a woman from the northern province of Tucumán who faced a life sentence for an alleged abortion. We talk to lawyers defending women criminalised for abortion, pro-choice and pro-life activists, senators, underground feminist network that helps Argentine women to get an abortion, women who had ​DIY ​abortions and survived . We hear characters share their personal stories, speaking passionately about their struggle and anticipation, fear and hope.
The question is where to go from there? What does the bill’s failure mean for the legal abortion campaign in Argentina and whether the growing women's movement will be able to strike back and bring the much awaited change in the country?

  • Katya Skvortsova
  • Katya Skvortsova
  • Katya Skvortsova
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Social Issue Documentaries, Spanish-language films, Documentaries
  • Runtime:
    17 minutes 46 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    May 10, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    500 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    English, Spanish
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • No screening yet
Distribution Information
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Director Biography - Katya Skvortsova

Katya is a Russian documentary filmmaker and journalist. She has lived in Crimea, Saint Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm and New York before settling down in Berlin in 2017. Her career as a filmmaker started at the United Nations where she assisted with production of short-form documentaries for the UN television and social media. Her work is primarily focused on promoting human rights and women empowerment around the world. Right now she's working on her new film project about education of girls in Kenya.

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Director Statement

'Green handkerchief' or 'pañuelo verde' is a symbol of resistance. It was adopted by Argentinian women who have been fighting for decades to make abortion legal. What started as a demonstration years ago has been transformed into a nationwide movement that swept the country since the beginning of the legal abortion debate.

Why is it important? Argentina has one of highest abortion ratios in the world and the most strict anti-abortion law rooted in Catholic doctrine. Many women who went through abortion admit that they would not have done it if there was access to contraceptives. There isn't. Negative stigma within communities and poverty force women to take matters into their own hands with self-inflicted abortions. Not only does it lead to severe health problems but it is also one of the main causes of maternal death.

I decided to do this film in order to give women space to speak up. I wanted to understand why the country with the most vocal women's movement in South America did not pass the pro-abortion bill. I wanted to know what still holds Argentinian women back and what is next for them after the bill's failure.