The amazing and truly heroic story of late trimester abortions: a movie review of After Tiller.

As a newcomer to the abortion debate, I sometimes feel that I can never know enough. When I tried talking about abortion rights to my roommates, I felt I couldn’t back up my claims strong enough. After watching the documentary “After Tiller”, I feel like I’ve been exposed to a completely different world, one that both shocks and empowers me.

For all you newcomers out there, brace yourself. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, packed with strict laws, in-your-face protesters and tough decisions. But despite the emotions, it tells the story of an enduring practice, of passionate doctors and of the strong women that occupy the seemingly lonely, sterile clinics.

To give you all a better foothold of the film’s magnificent story, let me give you a quick synopsis, sprinkled with some hard facts.

When Dr. George Tiller was assassinated in 2009, there were only four doctors willing to perform late trimester abortions.

The film doesn’t go into much detail about the death of Dr. Tiller, but instead the four doctors left to pick up the pieces in his place.

The third trimester begins at 20 weeks. Only 1% of abortions are performed during this time, however, this is where abortions become the most controversial.

The four remaining doctors struggled with their choices of whether to perform an abortion a lot, especially Dr. Shelley Sella.

After all, the woman is still delivering a baby, but it is a stillborn.

At many points during the movie, I couldn’t help but imagine what this situation would be like if I were in the women’s shoes. Talking with my sister about that possibility made me realize that my parents would have my back during that time, but losing a child in any way would be heartbreaking and scarring.

I like to think I could lead a great, depression-free life after abortion, but I know I would struggle with my actions.

This doesn’t mean, however, that I oppose all late trimester abortions.

It’s a wonderful service that should be provided to all women, but often I struggle with the ethics of aborting a child if the mother doesn’t have a good reason.

But I’m not in charge of her body, am I? That’s her choice. And that’s why I’m pro-choice.

To continue with the synopsis, the four doctors went through life taking each complex day with trepidation that they would be killed next.

Monumental events affected their lives permanently, but being the strong-willed and persistent people they are, they fought through the adversity.

When pro-life protesters protested a clinic being built by a doctor who performed late trimester abortions, he was often met with heavy criticism and even death threats.

A lot of those threats were even extended to family members, where they aren’t even responsible for their child’s actions.

Yet, death threats were a constant reminder to the doctor that their line of work was dangerous and potentially fatal. It even reached into their social lives and destroyed marriages and split up relationships.

Some protesters attacked one doctor, whose children were equestrians, and burned his entire barn to the ground, with the horses still in it.

I just can’t fathom how those protesters could justify killing horses because the doctor was “killing” children. That hardly seems pro-life at all.

In the film, the 1% of women who receive late trimester abortions did so because their child was diagnosed with a debilitating disease. Pro-life protesters would claim this would still be killing a child. The mother consents to doing this, but it is at the risk of the child

This is where I get fuzzy on my ethics of late term abortions.

According to one doctor in “After Tiller,” she felt that patients had to “convince” her to do the surgery, that a sob story worthy enough would proceed to an abortion.

I find conflict with this because it should be the woman’s right. The doctor later realized that the woman shouldn’t have to convince the doctor to perform that abortion because it is her choice already. But still, to what extent should the woman have a “good enough” story for her abortion? Do we, as a society, have that right to ask?

This film gave me a lot to think about and I suggest you taking the mere hour and a half to watch it. It’s heart wrenching yet eye-opening. Very sad but powerful beyond measure. And if you try to understand both sides, I’m sure you’ll end up with a better perspective on the issue as a whole.

“After Tiller” truly opened my eyes to a scene often clouded with protesters and pro-life advocates, to social justice workers and pro-choice supporters. Above all, it gave me just another reason to research abortion on both sides of the issue and to place myself in the shoes of a woman that could have been me.

Written by Elizabeth Anderson

Elizabeth “Lizzy” Anderson is a Minneapolis native attending the University of Minnesota. She studies journalism, social justice and is a service-learner at NARAL in Minneapolis, MN. You can often see Lizzy jamming out to funky electrobeats or doing yoga in the courtyard on a sunny day. Lizzy has been inspired by the people at NARAL to pursue her passion into health education, specifically on HIV/AIDS. She hopes she will be lucky enough to educate others on public health in the Peace Corps. “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning”- Albert Einstein

Back to News