Wearing my other hat as a filmmaker, I attended the international premiere of the abortion film, "12th & Delaware," last night at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto. It is a film about two clinics that are on opposite sides of the street at this Ft. Pierce, FL, intersection. One is an abortion clinic and one is a pro-life pregnancy care center with staff and volunteers that actively protest across the street.
The film is well-crafted, engaging the audience immediately in the subject. It also has tremendous access to the pregnant women who visit both clinics. As a producer, I was amazed that so many women would agree to be on film during such a stressful and pivotal time. The filmmakers spent a lot of time with both clinics and the film feels even-handed in the time it allots to both. It excels as a documentary, offering interesting characters and compelling tension.
Unfortunately, the "interesting characters" are all on the pro-life side. If you are pro-life, you have to admire on some level their dedication to the cause. But there wasn't much humility or grace exhibited, unfortunately, by many of the protesters. At least it was edited to feel that way. As the film progressed, I realized that may be due to the fact that the gospel never seemed to be reference point for these pro-life activists.
Even so, I found myself praying throughout this screening, especially when people snickered at the aborted fetus sign. That was a helpless human being whose lifeless, bloody body was on display. God help us all if that doesn't elicit some sympathy and respect.
The film ends with the statistic that there are some 4,000 pregnancy care centers in the U.S. and only 816 abortion clinics. And that was the focal point of the discussion afterward with the directors, Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing. Just like I was before I became a Christian, these were women working in the media who had never heard of pregnancy centers. I distinctly remember being shocked to find out about them when I began going to church--I didn't know there were any pro-life people who put their money where their mouths were.
And therein lies the offense. In the Q&A afterward, someone asked a question about what happened to the women who decided to continue their pregnancies. The directors said they got no help. All the aid that was promised by the pregnancy center evaporated, they said. That's when a man behind me asked if the directors were going to post "the truth" about these centers on their website. I raised my hand then to offer the perspective that not all centers are like that, but I was never called on.
At the conclusion, I was able to engage the man behind me in a short conversation. I asked if he would like to know my perspective, and I told him I had volunteered for five years with a pregnancy center that was quite dissimilar to the one portrayed (again, assuming an accurate representation). I had been a mentor to four pregnant women, relationships that had gone on for years in most cases. Each woman and her child received all kinds of material and emotional help from me and my church. To his credit, he listened politely and seemed willing to hear me out.
Then I was able to make the same point to co-director Rachel Grady afterward. I offered my sincere congratulations on a fine film, then I asked if she would like to hear my experience. I told her briefly about my years of mentoring work, which ranged from birthing support to baby showers to job networking to legal help with the immigration arrest of one baby's father. I wanted to let her know the center she profiled is not representative of all. She kindly heard me out and thanked me for coming.
I am grateful to have had these opportunities to speak up. My hope is that Rachel will remember this in future presentations and perhaps allow for the fact that not all pregnancy centers are represented in this film. I also hope you fine readers will attend screenings and humbly represent your perspective, however possible, to others present. I believe it is important that gospel-centered, gracious, pro-life people are present at screenings just for this reason.
Finally, we also have a responsibility to make sure the centers we know are accurately representing medical facts, are motivated by the gospel, are avoiding deception, are fulfilling their promises, and are in no way endorsing or justifying the murder of others--even abortion doctors.