Recently I put 33 minutes of my life aside to watch the much ballyhooed “180,” a film (sorry, “award winning documentary”) purporting to change “the heart of a nation” on the question of abortion (and no I will not link it). I got my hopes up a little when I saw that one of the recommendations on the website, from a John Piper, went: “I give my unflinching, joyful, trembling Yes to ‘180’.” Well! Sounds sexy, no?
The film opens with the question: “Have you heard of Adolf Hitler?” Don’t ask me what this has to do with abortion, because I was still trying to figure it out after the interview subject answered, “no” (no?? really??) and old news reels of Hitler’s Germany began to run. You’re really winning me over already, guys. Godwinned in the first fifteen seconds. We then meet Ray Comfort, who is “deeply concerned” that a generation is forgetting about the Holocaust. It goes downhill from there.
Comfort seems to have rounded up a disturbing number of young people who either don’t know, or are pretending not to know, who Hitler was and what he did. This should be a documentary about the failure of our public schools. But it’s not. It’s about how if you don’t know anything about the Holocaust, you’re probably going to lack a moral centre and have lots of abortions. I think that’s what it was about, anyway. I spent a lot of the time marvelling at the lack of ability his interview subjects possessed for putting together a coherent argument. I feel that for those he has convinced to turn “pro-life”, there will be little trouble turning them back. You don’t even need a logical point.
What the film consists of is a series of “man-on-the-street” style interviews interwoven throughout, all conducted by Comfort and intercut with footage of the Holocaust, as well as ultrasound images (thankfully used sparingly). I did expect some gruesome fetus porn, because of the disclaimer about disturbing images, but it must have been referring to grainy footage of piles of dead people from the concentration camps (in which I was amused to note, the genitals had been blurred. Yeah, because that’s the image we need to protect people from).
I was disappointed, but not surprised, to find that Comfort did not have some revolutionary new argument against abortion, but instead used the same old talking points and ridiculous hypotheticals that those of us in the pro-choice movement have heard (and refuted) many times. It can be overwhelming to be approached on the street though, and if you are not equipped to answer those questions I can see how some people might find them somewhat thought-provoking, even mind-changing. There was a lot of “I never thought of it that way before” comments from the subjects.
The film itself is fairly well put together for what it is, although I am not sure who it is supposed to be targeted to – I can’t imagine it changing the minds of anyone who has given even the slightest bit of thought to their pro-choice position. Sample hypothetical (paraphrased): “I’m a construction worker. I’m going to blow up that building, but I’m not sure if there are people inside. I think there aren’t, but I’m not sure. What would you say to me?” Um…..do your job and check? I’m reporting you? Get out of my womb with your goddamn dynamite??
I really wish people would stop coming up with hypothetical situations they can equate to abortion. Can’t we all agree there is no equivalent?
Abortion itself does not come up until 13 minutes in, after Comfort has already badgered his surprisingly good-natured subjects about whether it is better to bulldoze a bunch of Jewish people in a pit, shoot them to put them out of their misery, or take a bullet yourself from a German soldier (I’m not even kidding). There were also some questions about whether you would kill Hitler, and whether you would kill Hitler’s mother, that served to show morality as shades of grey, only to have Comfort totally contradict all that at the end with a very black-and-white approach to Christianity – a dangerous position to take for someone whose Bible never explicitly condemns abortion, and actually implicitly condones it.
Here are some reasons why this film did not make me change my mind about abortion:
1. I do not believe abortion is the moral equivalent to bulldozing Jewish people in a pit.
2. I feel conflicted about being on the same side as someone who would say to a young, pleasant woman of colour: “Hitler declared Jews as non-humans, and that’s what you’re doing when you say it’s ok to kill a child in the womb.”
3. I believe one can be moral without being a Christian.
4. I have the capacity for rational thought and am not instantly converted to an idea by being berated by talking points until I break down and say yes so the interviewer will just go away.
5. If I label myself, I do it based on what I believe, and not vice versa. I will not change my beliefs in order to fit into a category (ie “Christian”).
6. There was a really cute, self-identified gay woman in this film and it didn’t look like Comfort was able to convince her, and I still want a shot with her.
7. “It’s common practice to have a low moral standard when we free ourselves from the Ten Commandments, or when we’re unaware of their true meaning.” No.
8. It does not, in fact, concern me that if I were to die today I might end up in hell. Mostly because I follow my own moral compass and would rather suffer judgement than follow the (in my opinion, immoral) laws of a god I don’t believe in.
9. I don’t want to associate with a cause that has to put this disclaimer on their video and website: “We strongly condemn the use of any violence in connection with protesting abortion.”
10. I trust women to make the right choice for them, regardless of their religious or spiritual beliefs, I want to be on the side that trusts and supports women, and I truly believe that abortion can be, and often is, an act of love.
Sorry Ray. Better luck next time.