Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Film

After Tiller

Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Film

After Tiller

Article excerpt

Directed by Martha Shane and Lana Wilson

(Documentary Competition)

The title of the documentary After

Tiller refers to the future of late-term abortion in the U.S., embodied by the four providers who remain in the wake of the murder of their friend and colleague, George Tiller, who was shot in his Wichita church by anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder in 2009. While the documentary mainly focuses on both the day-to-day operations of the clinics and the motivations of these doctors to continue to offer this controversial service even at the risk of their own lives, the religious zealotry that ended Dr. Tiller's life is never far removed. The Christian forces that have made abortion rights a target ever since the Roe v. Wade ruling most obviously affect the practice of Dr. LeRoy Carhart, whose clinic is driven from Nebraska by a state law limiting abortions to within twenty weeks of pregnancy (late-term abortions may be performed up to twenty-eight weeks), then thwarted by protesters across the river in Iowa, and harassed by activists in Maryland.

One of those activists expresses his disgust at Dr. Carhart and his practice in terms of the evil of killing viable children just weeks away from a natural birth. But as the documentary makes clear, if these babies are viable at all, it is only with the prospect of horrifyingly severe medical problems, the type that guarantee whatever time the child spends out of the womb will be filled with bodily limitation, pain, and mental suffering. The women shown seeking this procedure in the various clinics (the others are located in Boulder, Colorado and Albuquerque, New Mexico) are almost invariably overwhelmed with sorrow at the prospect they face. If the patients presented in the film are indeed typical, generally speaking the need for the late-term procedure is born out of the discovery of a catastrophic health condition in the fetus at a later stage of development. …

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