*The following is a review of Frontline’s latest episode that documented the abortion debate in Philly area; 36 years after it’s initial episode. Mark Harrington of Created Equal took time to put the episode under review. It was used with his permission.
In 1983, a decade after the Roe v. Wade decision, FRONTLINE went inside an abortion clinic on the outskirts of Chester, Pennsylvania and filmed Abortion Clinic.
Almost four decades later, FRONTLINE returned to Pennsylvania to film FRONTLINE’s latest documentary, The Abortion Divide, which aired on April 23rd.
Here are my takeaways from the film:
• Transition to medical abortions: The key difference explored in the film is the availability of a non-surgical method of killing babies: RU-486, often called “the abortion pill.” In the film two women — Taryn and Megan — begin the process of a chemical abortion. They take one pill in the clinic and will take another at home. Of course, unlike in the movie unPlanned, the film doesn’t show what happened when the cramping and bleeding began!
• Abortion reality: The film shows the aftermath of a 6-week surgical abortion in the pathology room but covers over the flask containing an aborted baby killed in the procedure room. Oddly, the film tries to have it both ways by showing abortion but not really showing abortion since 6 features of week aborted babies are generally not recognizable due to be torn up through high powered suction catheter.
• Abortion pill lies: The complications and process of medical abortions are minimized in the documentary. One of the abortionists, Dr. Rebecca Mercier, says, “A medical abortion procedure is very similar to inducing a miscarriage. It is safe for women to do up to ten weeks of their pregnancy.” However, Dr. Anthony Levatino, a former abortionist, begs to differ. In a Live Action video, Dr. Levatino discusses the failure rates, risks, and adverse effects (i.e. abdominal pain, vomiting, heavy bleeding, and maternal death) from medical abortions.
• Ultrasounds matter: Despite some criticism of the Heartbeat Bills and other legislation requiring an ultrasound before an abortion, the film demonstrates how requiring an ultrasound affects the decision to abort.
• Pill reversals work: Dr. Monique Ruberu, an obstetrician-gynecologist who opposes abortion and counsels outside the abortion center, tells women who are exiting, “If you took the abortion pill, we can reverse it.”
• Restrictions on abortion facilities close clinics: Laws that require abortion facilities to meet the same requirements as ambulatory surgical centers closed eight abortion facilities in Pennsylvania.
• Authentic sidewalk advocates: Counselors are depicted as thoughtful, law-abiding, and sacrificial. One such counselor, George Asajiw, M.D., is shown taking at-risk families into his home.
• Pregnancy Resource Centers and homes for pregnant mothers are shown in a favorable light.
• Pro-lifers are vigilant: Now, with an abortion process that can begin by swallowing a pill, the film shows pro-lifers becoming more vigilant.
Dr. Ruberu says, “The RU-486 pill has completely changed the landscape of abortion, and it really necessitates that somebody is present outside of these abortion centers every single day, every hour that they’re open,” she says.
Finally, one of the most disturbing parts of the film is when Taryn, a mother of two who became pregnant with twins, says:
“What I hope I feel is a sense of peace, not only with myself and the decision that I’ve made but also a sense of peace with these two beings that I’ve chosen not to bring into the world. Thank you for choosing me. And I’m honored to be given this gift of life. I can’t do it right now. I can’t accept that mantle in terms of the other lives that I’m taking care of and I’m responsible for.”
One thing is clear in the film, there is no getting away from the fact that abortion is sad and tragic despite the attempts of some abortion advocates to destigmatize it.
Considering the source, overall, the documentary is fair treatment of the abortion debate in America.
To see the episode in its entirety, visit here: Frontline Episode