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After the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas in 2009, there are a limited number of doctors left in the country who provide third-trimester abortions for women. AFTER TILLER moves between the rapidly unfolding stories of these doctors, all of whom were close colleagues of Dr. Tiller, and are fighting to keep this service available in the wake of his death. These four people have become the new number-one targets of the pro-life movement, yet continue to risk their lives every day to do work that many believe is murder, but which they believe is profoundly important for their patients' lives. AFTER TILLER shows them confronting harassment from protesters, challenges in their personal lives, and a series of tough ethical decisions. Written by
Trying hard - and failing - to present a neutral view on underlying issues of abortion, to show the human side of people performing it
Abortion is probably the most controversial issue in so-called 'cultural wars' of modern Western countries. Slogans, monikers, personal attacks, dirty political moves national an local, and - sadly
sometimes violence, are present and real.
This documentary follows a group of doctors and other medical staff working at a handful of US clinics that perform very controversial late- term abortions on third trimester, using the murder of Dr. George Tiller in 2009 as a convergence point to which the film will go back several times to assert viewers of the process of victimization of these professionals working at those clinics.
I recognize people have very different opinions on abortion, and that such opinions can be highly divisive. Personally, I abhor any justification for premeditated violence like arson, vandalism, drive-by shooting let alone murder as a way to get your views imposed on others.
In this context, "After Tiller" tries to showcase the environment of fear, stress and even social isolation that the professionals performing these controversial, albeit legal, procedures face. It is easy to see the effects that dehumanizing people one disagree with have on creating a corrosive environment that doesn't spare them, their relatives or friends. The documentary does a good job on showing the dark side of the 'mob mentality' that commands the tiny, but dangerous, faction of anti- abortion activists who rationalize their own use of violence.
The film does is in a non-sensationalist manner, avoiding the low- hanging approaches of exploring the emotions of people affected by these incidents. It leaves to the viewer to draw his/her own conclusions about the impact of mob-style activism and its effects on a free society.
However, this strive for an unbiased perspective gets tossed out when the filmmakers delve into the rationalization process that the medical staff performing these abortions go through, and that is the major flaw of the documentary. As one professional recognizes at some point, abortions done well past 28 or 29 weeks are in effect euthanasia-and- stillborn deliveries. The documentary is very deceptive in that it downplays crucial differences between early-stage abortions when, as someone said in the film, the fetus is "mostly a mess of tissue".
The idea of euthanasia of viable fetuses that could well survive as pre- term babies outside the womb is a very controversial one, especially when, as it is the case in all cases of patients followed on the documentary, the life of the mother is not at risk in any way. The directors made it look like there are no major difference between claims that 'Plan B is murder' and euthanizing a viable a 27-week fetus because the mother cannot cope with the idea of giving a live baby to adoption while also not wanting to raise another kid.
By falling into this trap, the documentary takes an equally extreme assumption to the ones it rightfully show as such on the other spectrum of the abortion discussion. One might well watch the documentary thinking that any opposition to abortion before actual labor starts is the same, and that no other issues or mishandling happens in the process (like lack of proper counsel for early pregnancy of teen mothers). From the documentary implied perspective, there is no possible position other than fully supporting the work or late-term abortion workers, or being an extremist against all rights of women regarding their reproductive health. I was not even expecting some more confrontational content on the issue of late-term abortions, but at the very least some additional perspectives on whether other measures within the health care system could be used to prevent women from having to undergo such procedures in first place.
Balancing it all, I'll give this documentary a score of 5: flawed in part, very interesting in other segments.
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