Martha Shane and Lana Wilson’s 2013 documentary After Tiller profiles these men and women. Blue Mountain Clinic hosts a reception featuring local care providers and screening for After Tiller on Fri., Nov. 22, at the Roxy, with repeat showings on Saturday and Sunday.
There’s all kinds of myths propagated about abortion, especially third-trimester terminations. It’s rare, for one thing; less than one percent of all abortions in the country are after the 25th week of pregnancy. The procedure doesn’t resemble the gory “partial-birth abortion” that anti-choice politicians rail about, either. Late-term abortions are a four-day process in which the fetus is euthanized and labor is induced.
And the decision is never easy. After Tiller portrays women who are rape victims, women who hadn’t realized they were pregnant, women who wanted a baby but have learned the fetus has a life-threatening abnormality. The four doctors struggle with the decision, too. Dr. Shelley Sella explains that the work can be difficult because she thinks of the fetuses as babies. Dr. Susan Robinson, who practices in Albuquerque, denies one woman who’s 35 weeks along for lack of a good enough reason, but goes against her staff’s opinion to approve an abortion for a teenager who claims to be pro-life.
It’s all very sobering. The light at the end of the tunnel is that, again, late-term abortion is extraordinarily rare, and that’s partly because pro-choice providers across the country work to help women prevent unwanted pregnancies, including our own Blue Mountain Clinic.
Abortions in the United States have been on a relatively steady decrease since the peak in the 1980s, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute. Films like After Tiller help us zoom in and break down those statistics, to help us understand that behind every number is a woman facing a complicated situation. In a better world, the efforts devoted to undermining abortion rights would go to preventing the need for abortions in the first place.—Kate Whittle