Following the assassination of America’s most infamous abortionist, Dr George Tiller, there are only four doctors remaining in the country that are willing to perform third-trimester abortions. Despite these procedures being legal, the practitioners, and more distressingly the patients, are often subjected to harassment and threats from pro-life campaigners and religious activists protesting against such treatments.
After Tiller, screened exclusively at London’s Frontline Club, documents this heavily debated issue in a manner that is neither aggressive nor judgmental in its approach, but rather an outlet to see things from the perspective of these four enduring doctors and the patients they treat.
Operating in the few remaining states that deem this practice legal, the doctors are spread across three surgical clinics, each with its own clan of anti-abortionists picketing outside their doors. Regardless, the doctors remain headstrong in the idea that what they are doing is helping desperate women nationwide. Thus they carry on the work of Dr Tiller, whom they all looked up to as a mentor and a friend. That said, it is clear that the unnerving notion that any one of them could be the next victim of an activist attack looms over their heads every day.
Directors Martha Lane and Lana Wilson’s approach to these matters is one of extreme delicacy, hiding the faces of the pregnant women and focusing on the intimate and loving nature of the doctors despite their clinically sterile environment.
Still, this does nothing to take away from the severity of the issue or the truly harrowing stories shared by the women seeking treatment during therapy sessions offered by doctors. It is during these scenes that the film is at its hardest to watch, with discussions varying from rape and children with disfigurements and/or with severe learning difficulties, to unsafe home environments and the inability to support a child financially.
Throughout, the doctors are intent on reserving their practice as dealing with a public health issue, rather than the murder their opposing forces so callously label it.
Whether the film achieves this or not however is down to the viewer, though it’s hard to imagine that anyone would not be moved by the recounted tales and therefore forced to question their own principles. Either way, this is a must-watch for anyone wishing to gain an informed opinion on this emotionally fragile issue.
After Tiller is released in select cinemas on 10th January 2014.
Watch the trailer for After Tiller here: