Analysis

Documentary highlights work of pregnancy centers in offering women real choices

documentary, choice, abortion

Last fall, ProskoMedia released a nine-part documentary about women who feel trapped or coerced into choosing abortion. The full documentary, “In the Name of Choice,” is available on YouTube. It won a prize in the Byzanfest, an online film festival for productions related to Orthodox Christianity, and the director, Adam Lowell Roberts, is a deacon in the Antiochian Orthodox Church. As such, the film focuses on several different Orthodox communities offering resources to mothers in crisis and provides a Christian outlook on the issues.

The film, narrated by renowned pro-life feminist Frederica Mathewes-Green, attempts to place the viewer in the precarious situation of millions of women who choose abortion because they think they have no other choice and shows the people who have stepped forward to offer an alternative. Like Benjamin Watson’s recent documentary “Divided Hearts of America,” Robert’s film can be disorienting with the rapid clips of many different interviews. It can be difficult to keep track of people and their positions as the film cuts from one to another and back again.

STRENGTHS

The film draws attention to the problem of coerced abortion

“In the Name of Choice” is at its best when examining personal stories and sharing the perspective of people who have dedicated their lives to helping mothers and families. Through interviews with people providing material and legal resources to mothers in crisis, the documentary explores the prevalence of coerced abortion. While abortion activists present abortion as “empowering” women and providing “choice,” the reality is that legal elective abortion can be used by people around the mother — whether her parents, boyfriend, or employer — to pressure her into ending her child’s life against her will.

Beyond overt coercion, there are also many subtle ways that women feel compelled to choose abortion in crisis. While poverty is a significant contributing factor in an abortion decision, studies show that a lack of financial resources is not the reason why mothers choose abortion. Rather, a lack of both emotional support and a community network leads many mothers in challenging circumstances to believe that abortion is their only option. As Mathewes-Green explains, after hundreds of interviews with post-abortive mothers, the feedback she received was that many women felt they could have chosen life for their child if just one person had expressed moral and emotional support. Mathewes-Green vividly analogized this predicament when she wrote, “No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

The film addresses the false accusation that pro-lifers are only ‘pro-birth’

The film addresses the false claim that pro-lifers only care about the child before she is born, and shows some of the countless pro-lifers who work to ensure that the entire family thrives before and after the arrival of a child in an unplanned pregnancy. This involves not only meeting the material needs of the child but also healing families and giving them opportunities.

One director at a resource center told filmmakers, “It’s about giving hope, and not only just providing hope for people but giving them the skill set or the tools in their toolbox to create change and make their family unit better, which then stops that cycle of poverty.” When asked if she had seen the cycle of poverty broken she said, “I definitely have seen them on their way to breaking that cycle. You know, it’s a very long process.”

WEAKNESSES

The film focuses on individual shortcomings instead of the child in the womb

The documentary is much less compelling when it tries to offer a cultural context for the abortion decision. The film opens with a quote from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart.” Listing a wide range of “extremists” and briefly describing their acts of violence allegedly for or against abortion, the film seemed to draw moral equivalence between those working for and against abortion.

Certainly, individual people who are pro-life and pro-abortion have struggles and moral failures. However, focusing on these individual shortcomings and crimes does not address the morality of abortion itself. What is odd about the film is its reticence to discuss the child in the womb and address what abortion is. Acts of violence in the name of being “pro-life” are never justified and legitimate pro-life leaders have never pretended otherwise. On the other hand, abortion itself is an act of tremendous violence that ends the life of at least one innocent human being.

The way the film portrays the use of abortion victim images is unhelpful

Several of the people interviewed in the film suggested that the use of signs depicting preborn babies killed in abortion was insensitive and that pro-lifers can cause emotional pain from the way they speak about abortion. This is certainly understandable, and many pro-life organizations are focused on addressing post-abortive mothers and helping them to heal.

However, it is not helpful to say that all use of images of abortion victims and frank discussion of the violence of abortion should be avoided. Many people have become pro-life after witnessing images and videos depicting the gruesomeness of abortion. Many post-abortive mothers have explained how images of preborn babies were part of their healing process. Acknowledging the life lost to abortion affirms the grief and anguish that many mothers feel. Additionally, taking responsibility for their role in the killing of their child, however coerced or ignorant they may have been, set them free by opening up the possibility of fully healing.

CONCLUSION

It is true that there are many cultural pressures that make choosing life more difficult. Nonetheless, mothers do have real choices and can choose life for their children in all circumstances, which is what the pro-life movement has been working to ensure for decades. “In the Name of Choice” highlights some of the organizations that have been part of this life-saving work.

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