Documentary 'The Long Arm of the Empress'

Just in time for the Museum für Verhütung und Schwangerschaftsabbruch's fifth anniversary in spring 2012, Susanne Riegler's documentary 'The Long Arm of the Empress' was finished. The title refers to Maria Theresa's criminal code Constitutio Criminalis Theresiana from 1768, which provided for the death penalty for abortion. Although it was already considered backward when it was set up and was already replaced after twenty years, it justified the ban on abortion and the punishment of women well into our time. It was not until 1975 that Austria managed to liberalise abortion.

As it was before 1975, as our grandmothers can still tell, and do so in the film, full of rage and anger at the humiliations they had to suffer. On behalf of many, Elisabeth Haidler, Annemarie Indinger, Christine Käfer and Freda Meisner-Blau report how unintentionally pregnant women were treated and what cruel means, tools and substances they used in their despair. Even more terrible than the physical pain is the memory of the powerless rage at the degrading treatment, which also becomes clear in a frequently quoted little saying: 'Weibersterben – kein Verderben, Rossverrecken – Bauernschrecken!'

The interview passages of the experts and stories of the contemporary witnesses will be supported by historical images, quotations, documents and objects from MUVS.


Genre: Documentary
Written and directed by: Susanne Riegler
Language: German
Format: HD; 16:9, Stereo
Length: 65 min