I was lucky enough to attend the Canadian premiere of Dr.Bernard Nathanson’s Eclipse of Reason, hosted in Ottawa by Alliance for Life in April. I had accepted the invitation with some misgivings. Not only am I a fan of his earlier Silent Scream (the tone of which put me off and I found the ultrasound images difficult to interpret), but I had read about Eclipse and knew the abortion scenes were reputed to be gory.

Although it is difficult to watch (I walked out during the first press showing and had to force myself to stay during the actual premiere that evening), I believe Eclipse should be mandatory viewing for women considering abortion, for politicians, for judges, for policemen who guard abortuaries, for clergymen who prefer to talk about “individual conscience,” for doctors and medical personnel who adopt a “choice” position and insist they know the facts. Eclipse of Reason can change people’s opinions on the issue. In fact, it already has.

Projectionist in tears

The owner of the projection company hired to present it in Ottawa has refused to charge Alliance for his work. He was so moved by what he was watching that he had to brush away his tears when asked a question during the second showing. He admits he had been a fence sitter, had seen pro-lifers picketing the local hospital and thought they were nuts. Now his question is, “where do I go to join the picket line?”

So why did I walk out? The early scenes of the still living child in the womb, before the abortion has begun, are so clear and detailed and beautiful that I knew I could not bear to sit through the subsequent scenes of the child being mangled. We all know the still photographs of the tiny fingers, the delicate face, the translucent skin . . . A picture may be worth a thousand words: these images are worth a thousand stills.

Jolting the conscience

And yes, the scenes of the actual abortion are brutal and stomach-churning. This new technique is so clear that the viewer does not need a voice-over to describe the images, as was necessary with the ultrasound used in The Silent Scream. (The inside-the-womb scenes were filmed using a fetoscope with a camera attached.) But these scenes are not there to provide gratuitous violence to satisfy box-office demands. The brutality is real and should jolt those who feel it’s acceptable to kill babies. It should also jolt the consciences of those intellectually-convinced pro-lifers who argue that we must at all costs be civilized in our requests to protect the unborn.

As I watched Eclipse of Reason, I remembered the allegations made by pro-abortionists about The Silent Scream. I can’t imagine how they will pick holes in this once, since the evidence is so clear, so direct, and so powerful. The introduction is superb statement from Charlton Heston, the film includes interviews with ex-abortionists explaining why they now refuse to participate in abortion, and interviews with women who’ve had abortions. One of these was physically mutilated, the other bears emotional scars.

As I said, I think this film should be required viewing. Our federal MPs don’t have an excuse, for a videotape was graciously presented to them by Dr. and Mr. Nathanson at the premiere. MP David Kilgour said he would arrange for it to go onto the parliamentary television network. Now all any MP needs to do is simply push a button in the office and watch the tape at his or her convenience. We should all ask our MPs to watch it. Another group that should be required to view it includes the Quebec and Ontario judges who refuse requests to place bail conditions, etc. on abortionists, saying “The cases are still before the courts,” and so on. Pro-life groups should arrange showings in their provincial legislatures – the pro-life voters should insists their provincial MPPs take the 27 minutes to se it.

Informed consent for women

Eclipse of Reason probably won’t affect many abortionist-doctors. After all they know that what we are shown is part of every abortion they perform. However, many have already been sickened by what they see by the second-trimester abortions. Remember, too, that the abortionist in The Silent Scream was shocked by the images of his work.

The principle of informed consent for surgery is behind my suggestion that pregnant women see the film. I know that many pro-life counseling centres who abortion films or videos to their clients and are roundly condemned by many for doing so. Such criticism is pointless because it says, in effect, that women should undergo abortion ignorant of the facts and the possible hazards..

Images of great power

Although I endorse the film so completely, I don’t like to think that somehow we are exploiting these babies’ deaths. (The abortion sequences we see are from but one of the six abortions recorded for the purpose.) I realize that these babies were under the death sentence anyway. I know lives will be saved by this, but I find myself arguing about he ends justifying the means and so on. Irrational, I know. Clearly, the abortions weren’t done because of the cameras. But these images have great power. They make you realize what is going on: they are clear, dynamic, and utterly compelling.

Eclipse of Reason is a family affair. Bernard and Adelle Nathanson worked on it together and their production company is marketing it. They are donating all proceeds from the film to the pro-life cause. I would suggest that the funds be donated toward a new pro-life venture, making films and videos on prenatal development using the techniques they pioneered here. What a challenge! What an opportunity!