The abortion lady

Writer-director Mike Leigh’s Vera Drake is about a real-life figure jailed in England in 1950 for administering abortions. The film’s point of view is pro-choice. Its thesis is that two evils—the illegality of abortion and the repressiveness of British domestic life in the mid-20th century—made it necessary for someone like Vera (Imelda Staunton) to help working-class and middle-class women who were “in trouble.” The phrase alludes not only to the plight of pregnant unmarried girls but also to that of wives whose sexual duty to their husbands stranded them with families so large that the work of caring for them was backbreaking and the means of feeding them insufficient.

 

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