In early September two new films on abortion were released. After a first showing at Toronto’s Film Festival of Festivals, the films are now available for national distribution. Both are National Film Board (NFB) productions and, therefore, made at taxpayers’ expense.
Abortion: Stories from North and South, produced by the Women’s Film Studio D of the NFB, was written and directed by Gail Singer. Toronto Star columnist, and right-to-abortion feminist, Lynda Hurst (Sept. 6) claimed that “it doesn’t propagandize.” She stated this after reprinting the claim on the cover of the film’s NFB brochure, that “each year an estimated 30 to 55 million of the world’s women obtain induced abortions. More than one half of these abortions are illegal, and an estimated 84,000 of them result in death.”
This claim reminds one of the figures promoted by pro-abortionists in Canada in the 1960s which started with “25,000 to 75,000” illegal abortions in 1963, grew to 300,000 in 1967, and finally reached the figure of half a million – according to Arnold Peters (NDP Timiskaming) in the House of Commons on February 11, 1969.
While these figures were shown to be ludicrous – calculating that every married woman of childbearing age in Canada had to have had an abortion every other year – they did their work and scared MPs into passing legislation legalizing abortion.
Lynda Hurst wasn’t the only one who quoted this latest claim as undisputed fact. Sandra Naiman in the Toronto Sun (Sept. 7) and Judith Finlayson in the Globe and Mail (Sept. 22) also quoted them.
Fabricating figures effectively
Fabricating figures, then, is still effective. In this case, both the figures of 84,000 deaths as well as the film itself have one object: to convey the plight of women in the face of the supposed cruelty of those who oppose (free, legal) abortions.
The film begins in Ireland, where abortion is still illegal. From there the narrative proceeds via Thailand and Japan to Latin American countries. Here, viewers are informed, women are forced to resort to all sorts of cruel, life-endangering methods, whether these are self-made contraceptives or clandestine abortions. The film concludes in Canada where people are shown to be enlightened and the law portrayed as unjust, as there is still no provision for legal freestanding abortion clinics.
The Globe and M ail reviewer Jay Scott, whose later remarks about the second movie indicate admiration for Morgentaler and who, therefore, cannot be mistaken as pro-life, makes no bones about the film’s purpose. Singer’s Abortion: North and South has a “bias” he says, “intransigently pro-choice” (Sept. 8).
In Ireland, the narrator tells us at the outset, the Roman Catholic Church “is unrelenting in its opposition to abortion.” As every journalist knows, “unrelenting” is a loaded word – rewrite the statement with, “is staunch in its opposition to abortion,” and you get a sentence that connotes a similar yet significantly different attitude.
Scott goes on to note that:
Singer’s interpretation of history is equally polemical and feminist: “By the Middle Ages,” narrator Dixie Seatle reads, “the Church decided that the soul did not appear in the unborn up to 80 days after conception. This made abortion acceptable again for several hundred years. But not for Pope Pius IX. In 1869 he declared that the soul entered the unborn at conception. A thousand years of abortion lawmaking had passed without the Church authorities ever consulting women.”
With material such as the above, it isn’t difficult to follow Scott’s judgment that “the film’s pose as an investigatory artifact is so laughably transparent.” What is surprising, however, is Scott’s final evaluation that “the main thing wrong with the movie is that the rhetoric is unsophisticated and simplistic,” as if to say that if writer-director Singer had been more sophisticated and less simplistic, this tissue of lies, distortions and anti-Catholic hate-literature would have been quite acceptable.
According to Scott; the film succeeds when it links illegal abortion with Catholic Church doctrine. He says:
The film is successful, however, at making Canada’s alternatives for pregnant women appear barbarous, and the concluding sequence, in the septic (infectious) ward of Bogota’s Maternidad Hospital, where women with botched abortions are treated by staunch (unrelenting) Roman Catholic doctors who believe their patients to be sinners, is unforgettable, a far more effective silent argument for the film’s thesis than any of the narration’s emphatic sound and fury.
A film to fan the flames
The sad truth is that this film may well be very successful in the classrooms of this nation. It will fan the flames of hatred against pro-lifers and the Catholic Church alike and build support for the right of every pregnant woman to kill her child.
On the second NFB movie, Democracy on Trial: The Morgentaler Affair, Lynda Hurst admits that “in no way can this recreation of events be called objective. The film-makers clearly liked Morgentaler and approved of his pro-abortion beliefs.” In Hurst’s eyes this is not really a flaw at all, of course. She had pointed out earlier that the CBC had refused to screen the film last May because it focused less on the law than on Morgentaler’s pro-abortion views. The film was one of a series of five docu-dramas on individuals who challenged, and consequently changed, the law. The CBC maintained that the film was a dramatization and not a documentary. Despite this, Hurst declares the sixty-minute movie to be “an entrancing piece of work.”
Jay Scott’s criticism of the Morgentaler film is of the same kind as his criticism of Singer’s film. What he regrets about the film is not its basic pro-abortion content, but the many technical flaws which fail to make it effective and hard-hitting. “Marvellous material wasted,”: he tells us, “especially a moving interview with the cop who led the second raid [an actor], a man who became pro-choice after viewing the body of a former girlfriend killed by an illegal abortion.”
Those who recognize these two films for what they are, may want to ask the National Film Board how it justifies funding films which are undisguised propaganda, presenting lies about Christianity and Catholicism. They may want to ask when the NFB intends to provide the public with pro-life films to ensure “balanced coverage,” a requirement which applies to the radio and TV media in Canada and which should apply to government-sponsored film-making.
The address: National Film Board, P.O. Box 6100, Montreal, Quebec H3C 3H5.
The Minister in charge of the NFB is the Minister of Communications, the Hon. Marcel Masse, House of Commons, Ottawa.
The producer of the Morgentaler film is Jefferson Lewis; his co-producer is Adam Symanski; the director is Paul Cowan. Gail Singer wrote and directed Abortion: Stories from North and South.