According to the directors [of After Tiller], the doctors “thought that if more Americans could meet them, and hear where they were coming from—even if they still disagreed with the work that they did—they at least might not want to kill them.” But that framing limits the scope of their film. By focusing less on Tiller’s death and more on the reasons why third-trimester abortion needs to be legal, this could have been a stronger plea to the well-intentioned Americans who, because they don’t know these women’s stories, might support Albuquerque’s 20-week ban or vote for politicians who want to outlaw the procedure entirely.
It’s awful but true that in the fringes of the anti-choice movement, there are people who want these kindly, funny doctors dead. But those people are not going to see the film, and even if they did, it’s unlikely that any efforts to humanize the doctors enough to absolve them of their sins would be successful. Instead, it’s the people in the middle, the ones who support first-trimester abortion but become more hesitant as the pregnancy progresses, who should see After Tiller. They should see the moment, late in the film, in which Robinson agonizes over whether to give an abortion to an anti-abortion teenager who says that despite her convictions, she wants the procedure. “We’re kind of a court of last resort here,” she says. “If we don’t help somebody, they’re not going to get an abortion.”
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