In 2009, Dr. George Tiller-a physician who provided late-term abortions, who had been the victim of violent attacks before-was shot dead while at church.
Of the abortion clinics in the U.S. today, only three provide late-term (third trimester) abortions: one in Albuquerque, N.M.; one in Boulder, Colo.; and one, now, in Germantown, Md. The remaining four doctors in the country who perform these procedures were all colleagues of Dr. Tiller. They experience similar threats and attacks. One doctor, LeRoy Carhart, owned a stable that was firebombed by anti-abortion activists, killing 21 horses. This documentary gently juxtaposes the violent backlash against these doctors with their kind, concerned attitudes.
Certainly, some will not be able to stomach this film. But it provides an insight into the medical practicality of the procedure. Footage of couples talking about their decision with the doctors elucidates the necessity of the procedure, especially with regard to fetuses diagnosed with insurmountable impairments. We witness the emotional process and the accompanying counseling that various expectant mothers and couples go through. We see the doctors deliberate about the compelling-ness of a patient's case. For the most part the decisions seem warranted. Still, at times, one balks at the propensity of humans to procrastinate.
The most earnest aspect of After Tiller is the purpose-driven nature of the doctors, who carry on despite the omnipresent risks. A genuine desire to help others motivates them, and their demeanors and those of their staffers are suffused with warmth and empathy. The film may not provide a balanced portrayal of this hot-button issue, but it does allow for an important voice-often drowned out-to be heard: the doctors'.