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Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady did a great job on Jesus Camp,
where they showed the indoctrination of young evangelicals. Maybe too
good a job, as they came out as caricatures instead of believable
Here they take a softer approach. The battle for and against abortion rages on today decades after Roe v Wade established the right to privacy. This film focuses on the anti-abortion forces right across the street from a clinic in Ft. Pierce, Florida.
This was an eye-opening look at the tactics used by the so-called "pregnancy care centers," who use all means available to try and stop people from exercising their right to choose.
It was an excellent treatment of a sensitive subject.
I saw this at the Traverse City Film Festival and again this week on
HBO. The first half of the film shows the workings and methodology of
the Pregnancy Care Center, a primarily Catholic Church supported
"clinic" for pregnant women located directly across the street from the
local abortion clinic on 12th & Delaware in Fort Pierce, Florida. The
second half mainly takes a similar but opposite view from inside the
abortion clinic. Neither side talks to each other.
The purpose of the Pregnancy Care Center is to persuade women to not have an abortion. If women mistakenly (or not) wander into their building thinking it is the abortion clinic, they hide the fact that they cannot get an abortion there and do an ultrasound and show women the size and appearance of the fetus they are thinking about aborting. And for those that go to the correct corner to get their abortion, the Pregnancy Care Center and their supporters picket in front of the abortion clinic trying to convince (harass?) women who are going into the abortion center to change their minds. They promise the women financial and emotional support if they keep their pregnancies.
The view from the abortion clinic is one of vigilant watchfulness and shuttered privacy. Run for profit by a husband and wife team, their hired physician is brought in by the owners in a souped up Mustang (much to the aggravation of the protesters) with a sheet over the head of the abortionist. There is a lot of looking at security cameras and peeking out of blinds at the Pregnancy Care Center across the street.
Multiple people are interviewed including the protesters, the women seeking abortions (some who go through with it and some who do not), and one of the owners of the abortion clinic (the wife) and the priest and main female volunteer in the Pregnancy Care Center. This is done with almost no commentary letting their words speak for their very different viewpoints.There are crazy and scary people among the demonstrators as well as sympathetic people who deeply believe in the side they have chosen.
In a Q&A after the showing at Traverse City, co-director Heidi Ewing was present and she is obviously pro-choice. Yet this documentary is surprisingly sympathetic to people on both sides. Certainly the Pregnancy Care Center is seen to be deceptive in their practices, but the abortion clinic ends up looking like a seedy and darkly hidden business. The motivation for the Pregnancy Care Center is their faith and that of the abortion clinic appears to pretty much be making a buck.
As a physician of Christian faith who has attempted to help women with the very difficult choice of whether to carry a pregnancy or end it, and who has left the final choice to them and then helped them regardless of their decision, I appreciate how balanced the documentary is. It is too bad the two sides do not ever talk or attempt find common ground.
This is a moving and thought-provoking documentary. You will not regret the time spent watching. 8/10
First, my summary title is not hyperbole. Millions of taxpayer dollars
have gone to these faith-based "Pregnancy centers," where the staff
lies to women not only about abortion, but also about their individual
stage of pregnancy (see: Congressman Henry A. Waxman's 2006 Report).
All the patients are portrayed with respect, and this is an amazingly even-handed documentary. I would like to acknowledge the the success of the film's editing and cinematography -- at times, this difficult subject becomes almost pretty to look at. Occasional frames of curved distortion accentuated the fishbowl environment that doctors and patients are forced to experience.
The lack of narration allows the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions. One group appears to act with the belief that the end justifies the means. I found the clinic owners calm and professional, particularly given the circumstances. Their refusal to engage in histrionics does not indicate a lack of concern, and any secretive behavior is reasonable given the threats that they face. The patients, defiant and poignant by turn, are the heroines of this story and their own.
I went into this film somewhat expecting to be subliminally persuaded into one side of the issue or the other... I was very pleasantly surprised that it was almost sympathetic to both sides. There is no narration whatsoever, which allows the viewer to listen to both viewpoints only through the voices of the advocates on each side. I have always struggled with the issue of abortion personally, and I think this film does a great job of showing that there is a very real human element on both ends of the debate... No matter what the previous reviewers say. And by the way, I don't see any problem with a woman hearing both options before ending a pregnancy... There's no changing your mind after abortion, so I believe that taking a moment to hear alternatives is not wasted time. Very well done film making
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