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Anti-Abortion Groups Attack "After Tiller" and Its Subjects

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by Anthony Kaufman
May 9, 2013 9:42 AM
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An anti-abortion group has released an undercover video, it is being widely reported, that attacks the acclaimed documentary "After Tiller" and one of its subjects, Dr. LeRoy Carhart. The video begins with a quote from co-director Lana Wilson, who says, "For the doctors, it was about putting a human face on their profession, they are proud of what they do." But the video, of course, attempts to demonize the doctors, singling out an inappropriate comment made by Dr. Carhart.

Dr. Leroy Carhart, flanked by directors Lana Wilson and Martha Shane
Dr. Leroy Carhart, flanked by directors Lana Wilson and Martha Shane


While Carhart's quote is taken out of context in the video for maximum effect, the full conversation is below:

“Will it start to decay or something?” asks a woman on the tape.

“No, it’s like putting meat in a Crock-Pot, OK? It doesn’t get broke—it gets softer. It doesn’t get infected,” said Carhart.

The videotape records two visits to a Nebraska clinic run by Carhart with women questioning him in detail about how the abortion would be done. Both women secretly taped the conversations and did not intend to have abortions. 

"After Tiller" was hailed as one of the best documentaries from this year's Sundance. (Here's my favorable review).

Despite the video's best attempts to put Dr. Carhart in a callous light, experts who viewed the video suggest that this is not the case. In a report in the New York Times, Tracy Weitz, a medical sociologist at the University of California, San Francisco, said people should not be quick to pass judgment on a doctor based on a few phrases on a videotape. “Doctors struggle to find terminology to help a client understand what’s happening, and while it may seem wrong to us, it may be appropriate for that conversation,” she said.

In the video, Dr. Weitz said, Dr. Carhart shows compassion for the women and concern for their medical safety. At one point, he counsels a woman that “it’s your life that’s going to be affected by this pregnancy and be affected by the termination.... I mean, this baby is a part of you forever,” he says on the tape.

"After Tiller" is currently playing at film festivals around the country, and will surely face increased scrutiny and controversy upon its release by Oscilloscope later this year.

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