The Last Abortion Clinic

About the Film:

More than 30 years after the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion, Americans, their legislators and courts are still struggling with this polarizing and difficult issue. In The Last Abortion Clinic, FRONTLINE explores successful efforts by pro-life advocates to lobby for and help pass state legislation restricting access to abortion. The program examines the successes of the pro-life movement and touches upon the age-old balance between state and federal authority over Americans' lives.

Watching the Film:

Teachers should preview The Last Abortion Clinic before sharing it with the class. If time permits, teachers can use this 60-minute film in class or it can be assigned for viewing as homework. Discussion questions and appropriate classroom activities are provided in this guide and can be used with or without the film.

A Note to Teachers:

For classes in U.S. History, Civics, Government, Language Arts, Current Events, Women's Studies. Grade levels 9-12.

Because the contemporary debate over abortion often overlaps with religion, this may be a sensitive topic for the classroom. This guide avoids issues and questions of morality and focuses on the legal framework concerning abortion and the restriction of abortion. The PBS Program, Avoiding Armageddon: Our Future, Our Choice offers practical tips for encouraging open participation of polarizing issues.

Teachers should understand that this guide does not offer strategies for facilitating a debate about whether abortion should be legal, but rather it allows students to understand the role of the Supreme Court, the Constitution and the states in determining the laws of the United States of America.

Previewing Activity:

Checks and Balances on Abortion
An introduction to the issues

Discussion Questions:

A list of questions to trigger class discussion before the film

Featured Lesson Plan:

Key Constitutional Issues of the Abortion Debate
Students will become familiar with:

Additional Lesson Ideas:

Where Is the Right to Privacy?
Students will learn how the Constitution was loosely interpreted to include a "right to privacy."

Where Do Your Representatives Stand?
Students will research their elected officials' positions on abortion.

Case Law on Abortion: The Last 40 Years
Students will examine key U.S. Supreme Court cases that have pertained to the expansion or restriction of abortion rights.

Additional Resources:

An annotated list of relevant Web sites, books and articles.

Purchasing the Film:

The Last Abortion Clinic can be purchased from Shop PBS for Teachers. Also, teachers and students can watch the film streamed in its entirety on FRONTLINE's Web site: http://www.pbs.org/frontline/clinic


This teacher's guide was developed by Simone Bloom Nathan of Media Education Consultants. It was written by Debra Plafker Gutt, Stuyvesant High School, New York. Advisers were Ellen Greenblatt of University High School, San Francisco and Patricia Grimmer, Carbondale High School, Carbondale, Ill.