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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

After Tiller
Directed by Martha Shane, Lana Wilson
Oscilloscope Pictures 09/13 Documentary
PG-13 - mature thematic material involving abortion, brief strong language

In 2009, Dr. George Tiller of Wichita, Kansas, one of the few doctors in the United States who performed late-term abortions (post 20 - 25 weeks), was assassinated in his church by an anti-abortion terrorist. This shocking act of violence only reinforced the commitment of the remaining four late-term abortion providers to continue doing this procedure. Each of them knew him as a friend and as a colleague. To his enemies, he was known as "Tiller the Baby Killer." Realizing that their lives were now in jeopardy, the four — Dr. LeRoy Carhart, Dr. Warren Hern, Dr. Susan Robinson, and Dr. Shelley Sella, decided to carry on his work as a tribute to his courage. Tiller was the eighth abortion clinic worker to be murdered since the Supreme Court passed the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in 1973.

Dr. LeRoy Carhart is a kind-hearted and compassionate man who meets stiff opposition to his work after he decides to move his practice to Maryland. Protesters and politicians call him "evil" and use every means possible to keep him out of their community including city council opposition and the manipulation of landlords. All this weighs heavily upon his soul as he recalls how anti-abortion agitators set his commercial stable on fire killing 21 horses.

Directors Martha Shane and Lana Wilson deserve high praise for catching on camera the vulnerability, dignity, and caring of these doctors and their patients. Abortion remains a hot button issue but those behind this sensitive and intelligent documentary refuse to simplify the complex ethical issues behind third trimester procedures.

In one of the many harrowing scenes, a woman learns that her baby has a congenital disorder in which part of the brain has not formed. Dr. Sella empathizes with the woman who feels guilty and at the same time knows that this child will not have any quality of life. Dr. Sella says: "I think about what I do all the time and I recognize what I do. And at times I struggle, and at times I don't. But I always come back to the woman and what she's going through. And, often, what life will this baby have? What will it mean to be alive with horrific fetal abnormalities? It's not just about being alive. It's about life and what does it mean."

 

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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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