HBO’s latest documentary lets viewers “hear the death” of an actual baby in abortion, according to one pro-life leader who’s in it. And, even then, the film sides with “choice” over life.
Abortion: Stories Women Tell premieres Monday on HBO to shed “new light” on abortion in Missouri. But, says a director of pro-life group Students for Life of America, the new documentary instead throws a “negative light” on the pro-life movement. In exclusive comments to MRC Culture, she spoke about the media bias against the pro-life movement – and on one of the most disturbing scenes in the film.
According to the show description, the documentary director, Missouri native Tracy Droz Tragos, intended for her film to shed that “new light” by focusing “on the women themselves,” or “those struggling with unplanned pregnancies,” their medical “providers” and “activists on both sides of the issue.”
But the documentary wasn’t “balanced” like the producers promised, argued Students for Life of America Western Director Reagan (Nielsen) Barklage. Barklage appeared in the film as one of three pro-life voices. As part of the effort to capture “activists on both sides,” a camera crew and the producers followed Barklage both in her “everyday life” and at work events, such as when she spoke with college students about Planned Parenthood at the University of Missouri.
But she was saddened by the film’s portrayal of the pro-life movement after attending the premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City last year.
“As the room turned dark and the film played, it became clear to me that this was not a ‘balanced’ film,” as the producers claimed, she wrote in a Students for Life blog. “This was a film whose producers wanted to destigmatize abortion,” she stressed.
In particular, Barklage was “very disappointed” by the film’s editing.
While the producers showed her speaking with students and explaining the mission of Students for Life, they also included “shots of pro-life protesters that we often see in the biased media” – protesters that “yell and scream at women entering abortion facilities.”
“There are so many pro-life organizations that are compassionate and loving towards women seeking abortions or who need healing afterwards and I feel those protesters that scream and yell, while they get attention, are in the minority,” Barklage urged.
Barklage also called the film “very emotional” because it “followed women who had abortions and who were going through them.”
“I felt like the producers had betrayed my trust by saying the film was going to be balanced,” she concluded, “when in reality it was not at all.”
Barklage elaborated on the media bias on abortion in an exclusive comment to MRC Culture.
“The media isn’t on our side, and we acknowledge that,” she said of the pro-life movement. “With the liberal media, it isn’t a surprise they want to show us in a negative light.”
This documentary, she added, was no exception.
“This film wasn’t any different, instead of focusing on the three compassionate pro-life women they chose to follow, they focused on the angry protestors outside of an abortion facility,” she said. “I understand that those protestors are part of the abortionist’s story, and should have been shown in the film, but definitely not to that extent.”
In her blog post, Barklage also revealed one of the more horrific scenes where the documentary camera “even followed one woman into the operating room at the facility” where viewers could “hear the death of that child.”
“The sound of that child’s death, was gut-wrenching,” Barklage told MRC Culture. “It was inconsiderate and cruel to not only include the sound of the suction machine but also show the blood remaining on the machine afterwards.”
Not only was the scene insensitive to the “innocent preborn child,” she stressed, “but also to the many post-abortive women that continue to be haunted by that horrible sound of the suction.”
“Some women can no longer go to the dentist because the sound of the cleaning machine reminds them of the suction machine from their abortion,” she added. “Other women can’t even turn on their vacuum because it reminds them of their abortion years ago.”
“Where is the humanity?” she concluded. “The cold and sterile feeling that scene brought was disturbing.”
In a 2016 story for Glamour, she also detailed her experience:
Unfortunately, the pro-life movement is often painted as judgmental and harassing. I recently appeared in the documentary, Abortion: Stories Women Tell, and was disappointed, but not surprised, to see that stereotype reinforced. Instead of focusing on how I, and the other pro-life women they followed, provide resources and alternatives to abortion, the film injected footage of fringe groups protesting outside clinics. By doing so, audiences only got to see the same old image of pro-life people yelling and condemning patients going into an abortion facility. Those actions and words don’t represent our movement…