‘Unborn’ doc. to screen at Yale

A photographer salvaging aborted fetuses from a trash can outside an abortion clinic is only one part of what “Unborn in the USA: Inside the War on Abortion” co-director Stephen Fell called “a hell of a story out there that no one else was covering.” The product of over four years of work, the documentary explores motivations underlying activism in the pro-life movement.

The Yale Women’s Center, the Film Studies Program, the Initiative for Religion and Politics at Yale, and the Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Program are joining the Poynter Fund in sponsoring a screening of the 2007 film in Linsly-Chittenden Hall at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. The event will be followed by a panel discussion with the directors, Fell and Will Thompson, and the executive producer, Suzanne O’Malley, who now teaches at Yale.

This event will be the documentary’s first screening in an academic setting and is notable because it has sponsors from both sides of the abortion debate, Thompson said.

“We’d always wanted to show the film to students and faculty and universities,” he said. “I’m just hoping a lot of people will show up, and we’ll have a respectful discussion.”

Fell said he expects the documentary to interest college students because they began the project while they were studying at Rice University and approached the project from a student perspective.

“These are issues that [college students] are thinking about,” Fell said. “I think they’ll really connect to it.”

The film’s first half features college students attending the Focus on the Family Institute in Colorado, which offers courses from a Christian perspective. Students from the Institute set up a provocative display of pictures of aborted fetuses at Colorado State University. Reactions on the campus ranged from heated discussion to displays of rage, and were followed by an evening of reflection and emotionally charged prayer among the Institute’s students.

Moving outside of Colorado, the rest of the film depicts other members of the pro-life movement, including a photographer of aborted fetuses, a woman who regretted her earlier abortion, and a convicted abortion clinic bomber.

Throughout the film, members of the pro-life movement debate the efficacy and moral value of using provocative images, and the film culminates in a violent confrontation between a pro-life activist displaying a poster of an aborted fetus and an enraged pro-choice woman who took offense to the images.

Fell said that throughout the project, the filmmakers worked to remain objective and to appreciate all sides of the issue.

O’Malley, who joined the project after the extensive filming had been completed, said that one of the film’s strengths is its dedication to accuracy.

“When both sides of the abortion debate can walk away from the film feeling fairly represented, that’s a success,” she said.

Ultimately, Thompson said, the purpose of the movie is to facilitate communication by presenting aspects of the pro-life movement without commenting explicitly on the actual issue of abortion in the documentary.

“We feel … this could generate a lot of discussion because of what it doesn’t say,” he said. “We try to stay away from making any direct comments about abortion as an issue. We make comments on the pro-life movement and the people involved.”

The DVD is scheduled for release October 23.

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