FILM

After Tiller
By Jonathon Gorny With on February 10, 2013

Giving a Face and Story to Third Term Abortions: Admittedly I have not held an opinion on abortion. The Christian title that I carry would stereotypically say that abortion is wrong and without really ever giving it any thought I think that’s probably where I’d side. But as directors Martha Shane and Lana Wilson shared, abortion is much more of an abstract grey area. In the past the US has treated the abortion in monochromatic terms- you’re either one or the other. And as often is the case with absolute arguments, the human element is a casualty. Enter After Tiller. Review of the movie: Who would ever do a third term abortion, and what are the scenarios that women find themselves in when they seek said abortions? These are the two questions that After Tiller seeks to answer. While following the only four legal third trimester abortion doctors in the world, After Tiller looks to shine light on third trimester abortions, and the people behind them. Martha Shane and Lana Wilson unerringly take you into the hearts and lives of the four doctors performing later term abortions. After Tiller shows the doctors struggles both with their profession and with their personal lives. As seems to be the theme, the quality of life that they seek to give to unborn babies or their parents is often a luxury they can’t enjoy. They live in the nerve-wrecking wake of their assassinated predecessor George Tiller and they (and their families) receive constant threats and attacks. These doctors face real life struggles not only from the public but also from within and those struggles painfully take center stage. The other side of the film sheds light on why exactly someone would get a third trimester abortion. One woman was raped; another wants the baby but the baby has a deadly disease and is only promised minutes if born alive; another baby has a rare diseases in which simply holding the baby could crush her bones. And they even show the irresponsible side. The 16 year old girl who didn’t tell her mom until it was nearly too late. The mother of two who can’t stop drinking. The college student who doesn’t want to have life interrupted but didn’t have the money to abort early. And by showing all these sides, the directors somewhat remove, or perhaps make lessen, the villain tag from these women. They show that sometimes abortion is the best case as in the deadly diseased fetus. Lastly, just a note about the directors- These two ladies are so sweet and so kind. At the Q and A afterwards they were endearing and understanding and more importantly, open to conversation. They said they wanted to hear from pro-life people, stressing that abortion is grey and conversation is helpful if not paramount. And the way in which they so delicately walked the line in this movie is calming to both sides. Pro-life protesters were presented in a fair and accurate light, not seen as cartoony or judgmental. There were no villains. And the doctors weren’t heroes. This movie shows people doing really hard things often in really desperate times. There is a scene in We Were Soldiers where a Vietnamese soldier, in fear, clings to a picture of his wife. In this, the director shows that the Vietcong are people to, with wives and kids and problems. And for a moment the audience is drawn it to empathy for this enemy soldier. And for the rest of the film, the visual violence and the echoing explosions seem and costlier because no longer is the enemy a faceless Asian, they are husbands, fathers, sons. They are human. The same could be said about After Tiller. This film gives the human element to third term abortions and for maybe the first time, those who oppose these abortion feel empathy for their fellow humans. Personal Thoughts: When I think of all the people I know who are anti-abortion and their strong felt emotions, they’d immediately paint these four doctors as villains. But to give them that label would be a miss. These aren’t heartless savages ripping out babies for sport. They get it. The doctors get how hard this is. As one doctor says, “Nobody fucking wants an abortion.” They cry with patience as they realize the weight of the decisions. They ask their patients to look deep into adoption and sincerely seek to make sure that abortion is the last case scenario. They doubt themselves all the time. Their lives are riddled with guilt and brokenness. But ultimately they believe that they are offering a better life for the baby and for the mother. This movie was not about whether or not third trimester abortion is right or wrong, it’s about realizing that human beings are at play here and black and white only further stunts the conversation.

About the Author: Jonathon Gorny
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