Published Jan 20, 2013Abortion is one of those galvanizing topics that manage to stir the pot. While the act of abortion is legal, there are many that feel it is an abomination against life, with religious fanatics being front and center.
In 2009, Dr. George Tiller—the controversial doctor that specialized in third-trimester abortions—was gunned down by an anti-abortion activist at his church in Wichita, Kansas. His death was seen as a major triumph for pro-life believers and a severe setback for the pro-choice supporters. Tiller was one of only 5 doctors in America qualified to perform late-term abortions and was revered as the pioneer in the procedure.
After Tiller isn't so much about Dr. Tiller as it is an examination of what has happened to Tiller's colleagues since his assassination. Directors Martha Shane and Lana Wilson chronicle the experiences of the four remaining doctors, shining a beacon of light on the noble plight of their practice even as they continue to face mounting opposition from the religious far right.
While the film is quite obviously slanted on the side of the pro-choice debate, the filmmakers seemingly expect the audience to have a uniform reaction to the content presented. Each of the four doctors is showcased with their backstories explored and the hostility they have encountered during the course of their careers. Yet the real insight into the necessity of their service comes from the patients—actual women that are going through the screening process, procedure and aftermath—who provide a perspective that is difficult to refute.
Most impressive is how moral and ethical implications still play such an intense role in the doctors' decisions and how they, not unlike their patients, must wrestle with the same quandaries. These doctors put a human face on a nonconcrete issue; one that requires them to stand up against anti-abortion bullies, their passion to help women and the way each one of them wrestles with the personal, political and moral consequences of their job.
While After Tiller only gives a light dose of the anti-abortion side, it's obvious that there was no need—we've all seen images of the faith-based protestors holding their signs adorned with crude messages—as this isn't a look at the morality of late-term abortion as much as it is about the doctors themselves.
Shane and Wilson eloquently address a sensitive topic in a straightforward manner that gradually evolves into a respected voice. Their simple approach to the documentary's structure maintains a sense of focus throughout allowing viewers to latch on to the stories being shared and to feel the raw emotion on-screen. (Chicken & Egg Pictures)