Missing in the Film 12th and Delaware: A Pro-Choice Perspective

2 Jul

A week or two ago, I had the privilege of attending a screening of the documentary 12th & Delaware, a film about an abortion clinic and a crisis pregnancy center that are literally across the street from each other in suburban Florida. The documentary is scheduled to premiere on HBO on August 2, and I’m so glad I got to see it beforehand (not just because I don’t have HBO). The film is powerful, eye-opening, disturbing — but it also leaves a lot to be desired, particularly where pro-choice information and priorities are concerned.

As someone who’s never set foot in a crisis pregnancy center, it was difficult for me to keep my jaw off the ground. The staff at this particular CPC didn’t pretend to care about what a woman wants to do with a pregnancy. It shocked me — I thought there would be a front of faux compassion, but no. They pour on endless guilt, whispering to each other that a woman is “abortion minded,” that maybe they can scare her into thinking her fetus is a fully formed human by writing “hi daddy” on the ultrasound, and even telling one woman that having her abuser’s child may make him less abusive. They celebrate when they think they’ve made a woman feel scared or guilty. They keep one woman locked in their counseling room, even ordering her lunch, hoping they can change her mind. They spew out misinformation about supposed connections between abortion and breast cancer. This is only the beginning of their treachery, of anti-choice deceit.

The crisis pregnancy center in the film gets a lot of air time compared to the abortion clinic. I would guess that more than 2/3 of the movie is focused on the CPC, and while this may be great in terms of letting their bullshit speak for itself, not everyone knows that it’s bullshit. Whether the film makers wanted this to be a pro-choice film or one with no agenda at all, it’s irresponsible to let lies, specifically lies about medical information, go unchallenged in the film. It’s one thing to try and stay away from making an activist film, but it’s another to have an hour of anti-choice propaganda with no truth telling interspersed.

I was completely floored when CPC staff mentioned my tweet heard around the world about a year ago when I (foolishly, proudly) announced that my clinic was offering free abortions in honor of Dr. Tiller. Anti-choicers had a field day with this news, which resulted in harassing calls at our clinic, protestors on odd days at odd hours, news cameras, all kinds of gross scare tactics.

Seeing the head of a crisis pregnancy center talk about the clinic I used to work at was harrowing, mind-blowing, terrifying. Of course, on that day a year ago I learned too quickly the power of social media, but how will my clinic’s mention in this movie affect the safety of patients and staff now? Did the film directors think about that? Did they contact my former clinic? I notified the clinic director, but it shouldn’t take the luck of my being in the theater for these issues to come out.

There are a few other careless moments in the movie. In one scene, an anti-choice protestor follows the car of the clinic director as he picks up the clinic’s abortion provider at a location far from the clinic, a measure to protect the clinician’s safety. This anti-choice protestor talks along the drive about wanting to “do justice,” alarming terminology that usually implies violence. We don’t see any actual violence, but the silence in chilling – do the directors tell the clinic that the anti-choice stalker knows where there doctor is dropped off? Knows what the doctor’s license plate is? There’s no way to tell from the film.

I respect that the film makers were trying to present an unbiased or apolitical view of the “abortion debate,” but safety concerns are not about politics, they’re about people’s lives. When you film people in a church proclaiming that pro-choice people and abortion providers are under the influence of “the powers of darkness” and then don’t film anyone combating these dangerous statements, it’s irresponsible. I saw the film in Brooklyn, where it’s an almost guarantee that you’re preaching to the pro-choice choir. There’s no way to know that this will be the case when it goes to a wider audience.

12 Responses to “Missing in the Film 12th and Delaware: A Pro-Choice Perspective”

  1. Went Rogue July 2, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    Sounds like the filmmakers could have benefited from watching the 4-minute film Silenced (also about your clinic) first. Thanks for the review–I’m looking forward to seeing this eventually, and I hope that your insights are delivered to the filmmakers.

  2. Tiffany July 3, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    I also recently saw this film in Woodstock. I, like you, have not stepped foot into a CPC and like you had to scrape my jaw from the movie house theatre floor. Rachel Grady, one of the film makers answered questions after the film. She said that the idea for the film came from her film “Jesus Camp” (someone mentioned CPC’s in that) and she hadn’t heard of CPC’s. When she and HBO were pitching ideas this came up. Originally, it wasn’t supposed to be “both sides of the story”. She was only going to film the CPC. But because the clinic was across the street, and they felt those “silent characters” needed a voice. So you are right, there is more time devoted to the antis because filming the clinic was an after thought. I was surprised by the apparent lack of research or medically sound research they did on this film. She kept saying over and over again how it was neutral and sadly I didn’t feel that. I do see that is seems that pro-choice folks are the ones previewing it and showing it-because it does seem to rile us up. I wonder if antis will be using it as a fundraiser?
    With a subject that is as serious as this, where doctors have been shot for doing a safe, legal, and common procedure it is irresponsible to not present some medically accurate information to counter the lies. I will be curious to see how it plays in Peoria.

  3. scarlet July 3, 2010 at 3:51 pm #

    “They keep one woman locked in their counseling room”

    Is that even legal?

  4. Shayna July 3, 2010 at 5:41 pm #

    I have not seen this, but am eager to see how these ridiculous “crisis pregnancy centers” are shown — I’m okay w/ the lack of commentary if they appear to be the ridiculous centers of misinformation and misogyny that they are — but I am concerned about anything that normalizes their behavior beyond the heinous acts against women that each lie told is.

  5. Evelina July 13, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    Thank you for this blog Steph. I could not agree more that 12th and Delaware leaves a lot to be desired. What is particularly disturbing to me is when they film a minor talking about how she tried to self-abort by throwing herself down stairs and punching herself in the stomach after the CPC refused to provide her with abortion care (a clear violation of this young woman’s rights, and it is putting her life at risk).

    I had the opportunity to discuss this particularly disturbing situation with the film makers themselves at a screening. Their answer – that they were independent documentary makers who could not take sides, like journalists in war, and they did not know the young woman would do this anyway – left me speechless for a short second, and then even angrier. They were not journalists in war. They were living their normal lives in the US, making a film about a hot button topic without doing their research up front about the possible dangers women who are denied abortions at CPCs put themselves through. I have nothing more to say to them than shame on you for playing games with women’s lives.

    I also informed them that you can make documentary films while still respecting women’s rights and health. They could for example have provided handouts with information about alternative health care providers and service sites to women who ended up in the CPC and did not get the care they asked for.

    For a different style (and more woman-centered) documentary on abortion check out Not Yet Rain for free at: http://www.notyetrain.org

  6. Steph July 13, 2010 at 12:06 pm #

    Evelina, thank you for bringing that up. That scene also bothered me tremendously in the film, and I’m so glad you confronted the film makers about it. I’m not sure how involved they are or were in the pro-choice or abortion rights movements, but it seems like they have no consciousness of the context or possible implications of their film.

    They made a decision to include that scene with the young woman talking about trying to self-abort. They made a decision to include the scenes of the anti-choice man stalking the doctor. In doing so, they take on the responsibility that comes with these intense scenes, whether it’s alerting authorities or distributing information about how to access safe abortion services.

  7. Shayna July 13, 2010 at 12:49 pm #

    I agree with the filmmakers responsibility — women in crisis are not lab rats to observe and make high minded remarks about. We are people, and to consciously suppress your humanity – or to not have any to start with – is disgusting.

  8. Candace Dye August 5, 2010 at 2:40 am #

    Hi I just wanted to say that these directors went into this documentary undercover. I’m the owner of the abortion clinic across the street from the cpc that has been tortured by these people for almost 20 years. The undercover camera crew was in charactor. We truly thought they were one of them crazy nuts. When they contacted NARAL to talk to someone who knew me I didn’t believe them at first because this filming crew had been out there on our sidewalk for month’s filming every surgery day. I said no at first until one of my mentor’s called me which she never does and said Candace you have to do this. This will be good for the pro choice community in exposing what goes on accross the street behind close doors. Heidi and Rachel did nothing wrong. I feel vindicated that the world finally knows what the crazy people believe and how they twist and turn these girls lives upside down.
    I’ve seen the film 4 times now and each time I hear or see something different this time than any other time. We were told about the man in the sunglasses and warned us about parking somewhere else for the doctor’s safety. It takes more than one picture to prove stalking. We haven’t seen him literally for months. I’m very proud of the fact that I was involved with this film and I went to the premier in NY City the theater was sold out it was 300 seats I believe and afterwards with the discussion they gave me a standing ovation for 5 minutes. I spoke to several people afterwards and I don’t remember there being anything negative comments in the reception room where about 150 people gathered to ask Arnold my husband (yellow Mustang) driver lots of questions about the cpc and the priest. I am very proud of Heidi and Rachel for having the balls to infiltrate the cpc and literly become one of them. These liberal women from New York are filming down in a little town in south florida they have know idea at first what they have stumbled into. This picture evolved in a way that people got it. The world knows now that these cpc’s are headed down a long path to know where because of this film. I believe that this film is going to be one of the facts that tear there cpc world apart and they’re not going to get it back. Thanks for this blog felt good just to speak my peace. Best Regards,
    Candace M. Dye
    A Woman’s World Medical Center, Inc.
    503 S. 12th Street
    Fort Pierce, Florida 34950

  9. Tammie September 11, 2010 at 1:33 pm #

    Let me start by saying I am very much pro-choice. That said, I thought the documentary was well made and un-biased. I thought, however that the members of the Pregnancy Center, Anne in paticular, showed herself as the deceitful liar she is. Approximately 20 years ago my 16 year old cousin went to one of these places for a pregnancy test. They led her to believe the test results were not ready for hours. They forced her to watch gory movies about abortion. When she tried to leave, they WOULD NOT LET HER. Hysterical crying, she finally went into the bathroom and called someone to come rescue her on her cell phone. On their way out the door, they told her, “By the way, you’re pregnant, but we can help you, please don’t murder your baby, we’ll call you.” The person with her threatened police action if they dared call her after keeping her against her will. It would have been a horrible experience for anyone, but it was especially so for a scared 16 year old girl. I’m so glad to finally see these idiots get exposed for the liars they truly are!!

  10. Tammie September 11, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    Actually I guess it’s only been about 10 years, sorry about that…

  11. A.Bulk November 13, 2011 at 8:49 am #

    This doc is good , cause it shows how idiotic pro-life ENFORCERS are narrow minded, bible thumping asshololes that don’t take any womans feeling or actions seriously. They are brainwashed themselves. Ask them them if they support the death penalty, I bet they do!!!!! RELIGIOUS HYPOCRYTE

  12. A.Bulk November 13, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    Hey Tammy, You say ur pro-life and you said the documentary was not bias but then u just say that the workers at the pro-life clinic where being dis-truthful? How can it be none BIAS!!!!!! THINK ABOUT IT!!!!!! Also a organization like this had done things like that to your cousin and you are still Defending these FUCKS!!!! Whats wrong with your head, TAMMY!!!! Something I think, get your shit all on one page, not two , Honey , Come on!!!!!!!!!!

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