a bird and a bottle

Lake of Fire Steps Into the Ring of Fire
January 29, 2007, 3:52 pm
Filed under: feminism/s & gender, news & views, reproductive justice

Last night, while eating dinner with my younger brother, who is an aspiring director and screenwriter, he mentioned Lake of Fire, a forthcoming documentary by Tony Kaye (American History X) about abortion in the U.S. The documentary, which is supposedly politically neutral, includes interviews with Catholics for A Free Choice‘s Frances Kissling, linguist and cultural critic Noam Chomsky, and Norma McCorvey (a.k.a. Jane Roe, now a fierce anti-abortion rights advocate) (NB: the links at the bottom of the wikipedia page are mostly to anti-abortion rights sites). Lake of Fire follows one young women throughout her abortion process — the deliberating before, the procedure, and her thoughts and feelings after.

The film also features graphic images of a late term abortion. And this is – at least in part – what worries me. I speak from a place of relative ignorance here because I have not seen the film (any readers attend the Toronto film fest and see it there by any chance?). Late term abortions can be grisly affairs, and that’s no doubt why Kaye wanted to include one in his film. But portraying a late term abortion as the Platonic ideal of abortion (which I’m not sure he does) is misleading at best and a flat out lie at worst. And this is because 88% of abortions take place in the first trimester of pregnancy, and onl 2% after 21 weeks. This is part of why the whole “partial-birth abortion” brouhaha was so misleading (it was also misleading because the proposed bans would prohibit certain procedures used as early as 10 weeks). Certainly, some women do undergo the procedure shown in all its gory in the film. Many of these women seek abortions because of fetal abnormalities; some because they did not find out they were pregnant until they are well into their second trimester; and some because it has taken them many weeks to raise the money necessary to pay for their abortions.

If lawmakers were serious about reducing the need for late term abortions, they would repeal the Hyde Amendment and restore public funding for abortions so that poor women who want abortions could secure them as soon as they find out they are pregnant, instead of having to spend months collecting or saving the significant amount of money necessary to pay for an abortion. Or, even more simply, by promoting access to birth control and emergency contraception and by requiring all employers who provide healthcare to cover contraception. (In the meantime, you can help by donating to your local abortion fund or if you are in New York City by volunteering with the Haven Coalition).

But I digress.

Anyway, my concern – not yet having seen the flim – is that this scene is going to be what stands out in the film. Even if the brief description I got from my brother and the early reviews posted around the internets, it seems to be a scene on which everyone comments. I worry that it will overshadow the film’s more evenhanded approach and any new insight it might bring to the debate (if that’s possible after all these years of shouting at each other), just as it has obscured the real issues surrounding abortion rights for the past 15 years.


8 Comments so far
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well said. let’s hope that kaye had the good sense to provide the facts regarding the scene in question, and that – if so – the film receives a proper release, if only to provide a catalyst for intelligent discussion about abortions and related topics.

Comment by d

Does it get any worse than this:

“According to local news reports, a young woman was sexually assaulted as she was returning to her car Saturday night after Tampa’s Gasparilla parade. She managed to escape and reported the incident to the Tampa PD, however while undergoing a rape exam at Tampa General Hospital authorities discovered the woman had an outstanding four-year old warrant for her arrest for failing to make restitution for an incident that occurred when she was a juvenile [a clerical error it turns out later].

The young woman was hauled off to jail and denied bond. She was also denied medical care because the jail medical supervisor on duty won’t dispense the Morning After Pill due to her personal beliefs.”

Here is the link to the full story:

Comment by Jeff Berger

Jeff, Thanks so much for bringing that story to my attention. I am dumbfounded by it. That last paragraph is the kicker — not only was she arrested at a moment of intense vulnerability, but she was then revictimized by a self-righteous jail supervisor. I will try to write a full post about it later.

Comment by bean

Bean, one more bit of information. Originally, I found this report at Ungogged.com and followed the link back to its source, DailyKos. At Unfogged, look for the blog titled: “(my jail + my religion) > (your body)” posted by Apostropher. At this moment, there are 44 comments, among them some recognizeable bloggists like Dr. B.

Comment by Jeff Berger

I took a coffee break from this latest outrage and found a pair of green-winged teals in my backyard pond. Twig by twig, day by day, birds share equally between female and male the burdens of survival. It is something they do better than humans, I think. The green-winged teals were a reward from nature. Sometimes it may not seem so, but I do think bloggers can make a difference.

Comment by Jeff Berger

Sadly I do not often see such things in my backyard…unless you count pigeons! but I do hope you’re right that all of this bloviating does at some point make a difference, if only that we better educate ourselves for our fights with others.

Comment by bean

Amongst ourselves, it may be considered more a matter of “preaching to the choir.” “Community” is perhaps what is more important. Bean, even if we loose some battles, there is always community to sustain and support. May the teals be with us.

Comment by Jeff Berger

I had the good fortune of seeing LAKE OF FIRE at the Toronto Film Festival. I attend the festival every year. Before giving my thoughts on the film, I should say I have seen nearly every major documentary made in the United States and many from other countries. My tastes are fairly highbrow and my favorite films have been classics that most cinephiles of discriminating taste would agree transformed the way people think. LAKE OF FIRE is one such film. It is one of the most amazing films I have ever seen. I have no doubt it will be viewed as the film of record on the issue of abortion. I have seen nothing like it – so exhaustive in its treatment of the “human” ramifications of abortion and so complex in its examination of the many sociopolitical nuances of the abortion debate. I would go so far to say this film is on my list of the top five greatest documentaries ever made. I literally could not get it out of my mind months after the Toronto screening. It compelled me to see this issue in a completely different way. It will definitely change the course of the abortion debate in this country. The question is, in what direction will it go?

Comment by Robert Byrd

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