I do not know if I have ever done a movie review here or not. I think I did one once similar to the one I am about to do now, meaning a commentary on a movie that I have not seen, based on what I had read about the movie. The movie I am going to address now is actually a documentary, entitled After Tiller. This documentary focuses on the four late-term abortionists still practicing in the U.S. following the 2009 murder of Kansas late-term abortionist George Tiller.
The movie’s web site describes it this way:
AFTER TILLER intimately explores the highly controversial subject of third-trimester abortions in the wake of the 2009 assassination of practitioner Dr. George Tiller. The procedure is now performed by only four doctors in the United States, all former colleagues of Dr. Tiller, who risk their lives every day in the name of their unwavering commitment toward their patients. Directors Martha Shane and Lana Wilson have created a moving and unique look at one of the most incendiary topics of our time, and they’ve done so in an informative, thought-provoking, and compassionate way.
Now, as I said, I have not seen the film, so I cannot comment on whether or not the film depicts the topic in a “compassionate way” or not, though I am sure that it does. After all, the web site’s Resources link is headed by a link to NARAL in response to the provided question of how to get involved in supporting abortion rights. If the film is intended to increase support for abortion there is no way it will depict late-term abortion or late-term abortionists in any way other than compassionately. Having said that, I have no reason to believe the film is not very well made. The movie review web site Rotten Tomatoes gives After Tiller 4.5 stars out of 5 based on thirty-eight reviews. The site includes this summary: “It’s an imperfect look at an uncomfortable subject, but After Tiller transcends its flaws by applying empathy, honesty, and graceful understatement to a discussion that all too often lacks them all.”
Now I will grant that the discussion over late-term abortion often turns unnecessarily ugly (on both sides of the debate) but I struggle to comprehend how “graceful understatement” can be used to address a practice as horrific as killing an unborn child in the third trimester of pregnancy. According to almost every survey and statistic I have ever seen the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that late-term abortions should be illegal. Lana Wilson–one of the directors of the film–believes, however, that it should not only be legal but should not even be that big of a deal. She has been quoted as saying that she wants the film to contribute to removing the “shame and stigma” around late-term abortion.
Interestingly, one of the women who works at one of the late-term abortion centers featured in the film said, “I think the reason I’ve struggled is I think of them as babies. I don’t think of them as a fetus. … You can’t say, ‘That’s some tissue.’ It’s a baby. It’s inside the mother and she can’t handle it for many, many extreme and desperate reasons. Unless you understand what’s going on for the woman, it’s impossible to support it, how could you? It sounds barbaric.” It sounds barbaric because it is barbaric. I have no doubt whatsoever that many women do indeed have “extreme and desperate reasons” why they do not want to be pregnant or they do not want to see a pregnancy through to delivery, but to suggest that by understanding those reasons we can somehow justify the taking of life is an extremely dangerous assertion to make. After all, if I have “extreme and desperate reasons” why I do not like my spouse, or my living child, or my neighbor, or my co-worker, or whomever else, would that justify my killing that person? Of course not. The unborn child is no different.
At one point the documentary presents a teenager who wants to have an abortion even though her boyfriend’s family have offered to adopt the child. The abortionist decides to perform the abortion because she wholeheartedly believes that women must make the decision to carry a child or not themselves. In other words, it is not right for another person or even for society to tell any woman that she cannot kill the child in her womb. So I must ask again, how then can we say society has the right to tell any person that they cannot kill any other person? Why in the world do the few inches separating the inside of the mother’s womb from the outside of said womb determine whether or not that person has a right to live?
According to a review of the film by Emily Belz every mother in the film justifies her decision to abort “by saying it is in the best interest if the baby.” It ought to jar anyone reading this to consider that supposedly rational human beings can convince themselves that killing a human is in that human’s best interest–particularly a defenseless infant. This entire way of thinking stems from the belief that some humans are superior to–and therefore know better than–other humans what is best. That perception and opinion would vary, of course, based on which side of the argument you might be on, but this way of thinking is what led to the justification for slavery, for racial discrimination, for the extermination of millions of Jews, for flying airplanes into skyscrapers, and for many of the world’s other horrific tragedies.
I agree with Belz when she writes that the one good thing about the documentary is the unimpeded access to abortion centers that the filmmakers received; as she says, “no unbiased, let alone pro-life, filmmaker would ever get such steady access into these late-term abortion centers.” My hope and prayer is that those who see this movie will see beyond the pleasant personas of the abortionists, beyond the ridiculous arguments that women have the right to make this decision themselves, beyond the assertion that a few inches difference in physical location makes the difference between a human with rights and a blob of cells with none. My hope and prayer is that everyone who sees this documentary will be completed revolted by the practice of late-term abortion and that the people of this country will stand up, take action, and make late-term abortion illegal everywhere.