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Never Rarely Sometimes Always and Unpregnant shed light on how state abortion restrictions affect individuals’ access to safe, legal abortion

NEW YORK, NY — Today, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is honoring two films that honestly and powerfully portray the unnecessary barriers that state abortion restrictions have created nationwide, and the lengths people in many states must overcome to get the abortion that they need. Focus Features’ Never Rarely, Sometimes Always and HBO Max and Picturestart’s Unpregnant each tell the story of a teen who becomes pregnant and then must travel far for an abortion, while encountering many challenges along the way. Both films expertly challenge the stigma around sex and safe, legal abortion. PPFA provided information and support to the filmmakers of these entertaining and heartfelt films to ensure that they accurately handled issues related to abortion, without stigma or judgement, and is honored to recognize this work in our 2020 Excellence in Entertainment Awards.

Quote from Caren Spruch, PPFA’s senior director of arts & entertainment engagement:

With access to abortion under attack in the states more severely than ever, honest portrayals of people’s abortion experiences in film and on television are critical for breaking the stigma that still exists around abortion. People come to Planned Parenthood for high-quality, nonjudgmental health care and education, and we’re proud to help empower them to have healthy sex lives and to own their bodies and futures. 

“We were deeply honored and grateful to work with the filmmakers of Never Rarely Sometimes Always and Unpregnant because we knew they’d be doing important work in highlighting how these restrictions harm young people. With two very different films that each radically challenge the usual narratives around young women’s reproductive health care, directors Eliza Hittman and Rachel Lee Goldenberg have contributed immensely to the cultural conversation on sexual health.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Written and directed by Eliza Hittman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is an intimate portrayal of two teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania. Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) embark across state lines to New York City on a fraught journey of friendship, bravery and compassion.

When it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020, Never Rarely Sometimes Always was the first narrative feature to show the personal impact of a state abortion restriction on people’s access to safe, legal abortion. To bring the film to life, PPFA collaborated over several years with Hittman, who worked closely with Caren Spruch, PPFA’s senior director of arts & entertainment egagement, to ensure the film accurately represented existing abortion restrictions and the patient experience of accessing abortion. PPFA also reviewed the script to make sure that the portrayal of abortion was authentic and medically accurate, and that the language used throughout the film was sensitive and not stigmatizing. The filmmakers also spoke with Planned Parenthood affiliate staff, and PPFA arranged for the filmmakers to film at Planned Parenthood of Greater New York’s Brooklyn and Manhattan health centers. 

Since its premiere, Never Rarely Sometimes Always has received many accolades, including top awards at Sundance Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, New York Film Critics Circle Awards, Boston Society of Film Critics Awards, and Hollywood Critics Association, and garnered the most nominations for the upcoming Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Eliza Hittman. Photo Courtesy of Victoria Stevens.

Unpregnant

Written and directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg, Unpregnant tells the story of 17-year-old Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson) who never thought she’d want to fail a test until she finds herself staring at a piece of plastic with a blue plus sign. With a promising college-bound future now disappearing before her eyes, Veronica decides to have an abortion. Her decision takes her on a 1,000 mile road trip to New Mexico over three days with her ex-best friend, Bailey (Barbie Ferreira). 

PPFA was honored to collaborate with HBO Max by meeting with the stars of the film to discuss sexual and reproductive health and rights. The organization also provided assistance on non-stigmatizing and accurate social media promotion, along with branded Planned Parenthood materials to distribute at their in-person and virtual VIP premiere events. Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles also provided the filmmakers with a tour of their health center. Since its release in 2020, the film has received glowing coverage in national magazines like Glamour and Hollywood Reporter.

Rachel Lee Goldenberg. Photo courtesy of  David Walter Banks.

In March 2021, PPFA released a new report that shows state abortion bans and restrictions are escalating as part of a larger agenda to push policies rooted in white supremacy. Politicians are pushing medication abortion bans and restrictions, anti-abortion constitutional amendments, and other incremental restrictions to further roll back people’s access to safe, legal abortion. These bills disproportionately harm people of color, women, people with low incomes, and LGBTQ+ people.

PPFA is thrilled to celebrate these important films and their creators, who have done so much to advance public awareness of the barriers to accessing safe and legal abortion in the U.S.

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Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health care for all people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect, and without judgment, striving to create equitable access to health care. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable education and information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives. Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that supports the independently incorporated Planned Parenthood affiliates operating health centers across the U.S.