After Tiller Highlights the Horror and Moral Confusion of Late-Term Abortion

Several of the Pro-Life Action League staff went to Chicago’s Music Box Theatre last night to catch a showing of the film After Tiller, a documentary that follows the four abortionists—LeRoy Carhart, Warren Hern, Shelley Sella, and Susan Robinson—who continue to perform very late-term abortions in the US after the murder of George Tiller in 2009.

It was especially surreal sitting one row in front of a group of hard-core abortion-supporting feminists. Early in the film there is discussion of recent restrictions on abortion, including bans on abortion after 20 weeks. At the mention of the fact that a 20 week old fetus can feel pain, one lady behind us muttered, “Bulls**t!”

But as the camera later panned across a shot of abortionist Leroy Carhart’s horses as he talked of other horses he lost in a fire supposedly started by anti-abortion activists (though this has never been proven), the ladies behind us gasped in horror.

Horror for dying horses, and “bullsh**t” for babies being torn limb from limb. These conflicting sentiments were just one example of the contradictions and moral blindness that were at the root of After Tiller.

A Puff Piece on the Country’s Greatest Murderers

Dr. Hern and his son

Abortionist Warren Hern helps his step-son with homework

The documentary was nothing if not a puff piece, craftily designed to make late-term abortionists look like heroes of women’s health. And as a film, it does a pretty good job of that. The casual observer, and certainly the pro-choice person, may well be won over by the film’s portrayal.

Indeed, at the end of the showing, one of the ladies behind us stood up and said very loudly for the whole theater to hear, “Abortion doctors are heroes!”, to which League National Director Joe Scheidler boldly replied, “They’re murderers!”

The film shows the abortionists in their homes, their offices, with their families and dealing with patients in an attempt to paint a picture of compassionate doctors who just want to help women. But several things went strangely unexplored in this portrayal.

The Outrageous Cost of Late-Term Abortion

Though the costs of these late-term abortions were mentioned—around $5,000 but sometimes more than $10,000 depending on the age of the baby—the rationale for these costs were never explored. It seemed like the abortionists and the filmmakers simply took it for granted.

Susan Robinson

Abortionist Susan Robinson

But why is it so expensive? If these abortionists’ concern is truly for women’s health, particularly poor and vulnerable women as they claim, why would they charge these crippling rates? It’s not as if it costs them that much money to perform a surgery with equipment they already own!

The abortionists all lived in quite lavish homes and seem at no shortage for money. Why not simply subsidize or greatly reduce the cost burden if their intentions were as altruistic as they claim?

Carhart cited the old trope, “If I wasn’t performing these abortions, women might do things to themselves. This is needed!” Then why set an economic barrier so high that most women, certainly most poor women, could never afford it?

Well, one answer is obvious. There are approximately 18,000 late-term abortions (those performed after 20 weeks) in the US each year. A low estimate for the cost of a late-term abortion is about $5,000. On a low estimate, that’s a $90,000,000 per year business!

It’s a small leap from there to why they keep their prices as high as they do. They are lining their pockets and landscaping their mansions on the backs of desperate women to whom they promise an easy out from a difficult situation.

The Barbarism of Late-Term Abortion

Hern hugs a patient

Hern hugs a patient

Also completely hidden from view is the abject barbarism of the late-term abortion procedure. When they abort these children, they have to literally crush the baby’s skull and tear her limb from limb. No mention whatsoever was made of this.

In a typical surgical consultation, the procedure is explained to the patient in great detail so the patient has a clear understanding of what will happen to them. Not in the late-term abortionist’s office. There all is euphemism and misdirection.

If you’re going to support abortion of any kind, but specifically the obvious horror of late-term abortion, you need to be honest about what it is you’re supporting. The film hurt its credibility a good deal by trying to sugar-coat the grisly reality of fully-developed babies being crushed and decapitated.

The Muddy Moral Reasoning of Late-Term Abortion

The final element missing from After Tiller was anything approaching a moral apologia for this obviously barbaric practice.

There’s plenty of talk about the morality of abortion, but there’s no substance to the talk. Abortion advocates often adhere to the school of thought that, as long as you’ve “struggled” with a moral decision, the choice you make after your struggle is the right choice for you, as if the struggle somehow sanctifies the choice.

This is obviously a horrible metric for moral reasoning. Whether or not a rapist struggles over his decision to rape has nothing to do with whether the rape he commits is a morally acceptable choice or not. Similarly, no matter how much the “heroes” of the film struggle over whether their profession is morally legitimate has no bearing on whether or not they are morally justified in killing children.

Abortionist Shelley Sella

Abortionist Shelley Sella

Abortionist Shelley Sella comes the closest to facing the truth about what she does. She admits that what she kills are “babies” and that she cannot call them anything else. She says she thinks regularly about whether it’s the right thing to do and admits that it seems barbaric. Her justification for doing it anyway? The fact that the mothers are in difficult situations—as if one person’s difficult situation gives her the right to kill another person!

Abortionist Susan Robinson goes on at length about how she feels she can’t judge which woman “should or shouldn’t” be allowed to have late-term abortions, but later refuses to perform an abortion for a French woman who inquires with their clinic for no apparent reason other than that she’s “too far along”, saying, “I just don’t think I can help her.” But there is not reason she can’t perform an abortion at 35 weeks! It’s done often, she just didn’t want to. She later admits that she sometimes feels like she’s playing God, but she just has to make the best decisions she can about whose child she will or will not abort, based on no observable standard we can see in the film.

The fact that the lives of children hang on the moral reasoning skills of these intellectual and philosophical bumblers is absolutely terrifying.

Determined to Kill

The last case the film looks at is another of Robinson’s patients, a 16-year old girl who is 25 weeks pregnant. Robinson’s counselor tells her she doesn’t want anything more to do with this girl’s case. The girl has expressed that she is Catholic and believes that aborting her baby would be a sin, that she would regret it for the rest of her life, that her boyfriend’s parents have offered to raise the child, and that she really doesn’t want to go through with it. The counselor feels she cannot push the girl anymore.

Robinson goes to talk to the girl and emerges triumphant, glibly proclaiming that she believes the girl does want the abortion! She says she told her, “Look, you’ve got three choices. You can keep the baby, you can give it up, or you can have an abortion. They all suck, but you have to make one of these choices.” After this speech, she was sure the girl really wanted the abortion, because she “said she was certain.”

Even when a woman comes from good circumstances, has a loving home ready to take the baby and expresses that she does not want the procedure, Robinson bullies her into it anyway.

Sin Makes You Stupid

I walked out of the film numb—a rare thing for a person who thinks about abortion nearly every single day, often for many hours at length! The sheer depth of the evil and the banality with which it’s justified was simply stunning. How could the abortionists not see? How could the filmmakers and the audience not see?

Perhaps St. Paul summarized the problem here when he addressed cultures that were becoming mired deeper and deeper in sin, as ours so obviously is, in Romans 1:21-23:

Because that, while they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man.

Or, as blogger Mark Shea likes to say more pithily, “Sin makes you stupid.” These abortionists, blinded by their greed and blood guilt, cannot see what they are doing and have set themselves up in the place of God, determining who lives and who dies based on their whims. Films like this serve as an exercise in justification for a culture that is complicit in abortion, whether by procuring it, paying for it, or simply tolerating it.

I highly recommend that every pro-lifer see this film. Last night was the last show in Chicago, but there are others around the country. Find theaters and showtimes here.

It is vitally important that we keep the horror of abortion fresh in our minds, and that we know our enemy. This film will reignite your passion to fight abortion and give you a rare glimpse into how the other side thinks. Don’t miss it.

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