This weekend I spent some time exploring the Minneapolis Public Library which I had not been to since it was renovated. It may have been an outlandish case of public spending, but after using its facilities I had to admit it was a real treat to visit. Amazingly, their DVD collection is shockingly small.
At any rate, I found a DVD of a documentary put out last year by a couple of college-aged filmmakers entitled Unborn In The USA: Inside the War on Abortion. It was a strange experience to watch, and I am still unsure exactly how I feel about it, but it is absolutely fascinating because it is perhaps the most objective film on the most controversial of subjects. Though it is not without a discernable slant towards pro-choice alarmism, the film is not a Michael Moore-like hit peace that is narrated with a sarcastic commentary. The filmmakers make a few editorial comments in black and white text that mostly stick to facts that correct obvious falsehoods and give information about the setting it is filming. All that is presented are the voices of the pro-life activists who welcome the filmmakers into their strategic meetings. At the end you can watch exit interviews with those profiled and four out five say they were represented fairly in the film.
As a pro-lifer it is a conflicting experience to watch it because it simply represents the pro-life activists on their own terms, and at times they seem to act strangely and offensively towards those whom they disagree (What would you expect from activists?). The film profiles several cross-sections of the movement beginning with advocates from Focus On The Family and the Justice For All organization—the people who set up large photos of aborted fetuses on college campuses. By far they are the most rational and empathetic in their approach. The film gathers the reaction of the student volunteers who work the tables as well as the deranged reactions from those outraged by the display. Representatives from Priests For Life and the Silent No More campaign get air time as well as the extremist fringe group Army Of God who sanction the destruction of abortion clinics and in some instances abortion doctors.
The film focuses on the grass roots nature of the movement and its strategy of using graphic images to make their case. Activists who line city streets with large pictures and the photographer of the aborted fetuses are interviewed at length to give an accurate impression of their motives and tactics. The movement’s connection to religion is unavoidable, yet it seems at times to be overwrought. However, the controversy over violent images of abortion is contrasted with the controversy over violent images of Jesus’ crucifixion in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Jesus Christ. Those motivated by religious principles see no problem in displaying such “shock value” so that truth might “slap one in the face” (one of the activist’s strategies).
To go along with my controversial film viewing I checked out Abortion Controversy: 25 Years After Roe vs. Wade, A Reader edited by Louis Pojman and Francis J. Beckwith. After reading Judith Jarvis Thomson’s famous “A Defense of Abortion” essay (1971) I was struck by how modest her argument was. For those not familiar with it, Thomson argues that the right to life does not entail a right to life-support. Her famous thought experiment to demonstrate this is that you would not be obligated to be hooked up to a famous violinist who was in need of your (and only your) kidneys even though he would surely die without them. Her point is that a woman has the right to choose whether she will be a “Good Samaritan” and provide the necessary conditions for the pregnancy to go full term.
Interestingly enough, she admits that some pro-choice advocates will be unhappy with her argument, because she does not believe the right to “unplug” entails that the dependent person must die. In other words, you may unplug yourself from the violinist but this does not mean that you have the right to see the life of the violinist end. If he miraculously survives all the better. Yet this flies in the face of many pro-choice advocates and their insistence that the right to terminate a pregnancy entails the right to end the life of the unborn. Thomson sees this as fundamentally radical and outside the ethics of “choice.”
Yet this is precisely the issue Barack Obama sees threatened in “born alive” cases where a fetus survives an attempt at abortion. Check out the video of Obama giving a speech to Planned Parenthood for details on how radical his agenda is: