From a Salon review of the three-hour film about abortion in America:
In a pair of sequences guaranteed to unsettle any viewer, Kaye shoots two abortions in intimate detail, one of them a late-term intervention and the other a much earlier, more routine procedure. In both cases, we see exactly what comes out of the women's bodies into the doctor's steel tray, an assortment of chopped-up "tissue" that must then be pieced back together to make sure the entire fetus has been extracted. The principal difference between the two procedures is a matter of size and quantity, but the removed material is recognizably and shockingly human. For much too long, the pro-choice movement has relied on comforting euphemisms suggesting that early abortions result in nothing more than unrecognizable globs of goo. That was always sophistry; when you see tiny severed legs, arms and other body parts in that tray, it seems like something worse than that.
"I was very curious to learn what an abortion actually looked like," Kaye says, "and I quickly became aware, in terms of the structure of the film, that I needed one, and that I needed the story of a woman who goes through one. But I never thought in my wildest imagination that I could film one and that I could get so close. When I did film it, which was after five years of working on the film, I was in" -- here a long pause; he's having trouble getting the words out -- "an altered state when I came out of that place."
Hold those calls and letters, defenders of choice. Throughout the film, Kaye is extraordinarily sensitive to the painful decisions of women who seek out the procedure. If the abortion scenes are shocking, so are Kaye's interviews with the bloody-minded, Bible-pounding zealots of the so-called pro-life movement. These people constitute an entire universe of loner white guys with pinched faces and extremist interpretations of a few passages in ancient Hebrew religious works, perversely devoted to controlling female reproduction but totally unconcerned about the health and welfare of already-existing women and children. As interviewee Noam Chomsky puts it (he's seen here as a logician rather than a polemicist, and in that role he has few peers), the pro-lifers might have a valid moral point to make, if there was any seriousness or consistency or concern about poverty and human welfare in their position.
Exactly. And that's the tragedy.
Maybe someday sane people can talk sanely about what is really going on with abortion. Right now it's not possible. For me it's a lot like trying to talk about the Iraq War in its early stages. Everybody was caught up in the ideological reasons pro and con; only a few people were focused on the carnage that is always associated when the dogs of war are unleashed.
There's always some abstract greater good that is worth the price of
all the bloodletting.There are almost always very good, very
compelling reasons for doing the wrong thing, but the bottom line is the carnage. In an insane world you take the exception and make it the rule. Are there sometimes, necessary wars? Yes, but in a sane world they are the rare exception. Are there sometimes necessary abortions? Yes, but in a sane world they are the exception. In an insane world wars and abortions and torture are routine, nothing out of the ordinary. We are being progressively numbed to accept them as normal.
When the policies you support are responsible for unthinkable carnage, you do your best not to think about it. It's much easier to stay in the reality-filtered, abstract, bloodless level of ideological debate. When you live in an ideological bubble--whether left, right, or center--you are sealed off from the consequences of your thinking. It's comfortable, and you never have to change your mind. And that's why nothing ever seems to change. The ideologues change places in an eternally swinging pendulum of action and reaction.
Most Americans have no idea how American and British policies in the Middle East in the last century have caused the violent blowback we're experiencing from enraged Muslims now. In the same way, the typical pro-choice liberal has no idea of how abortion policy in this country has caused the violent blowback from enraged right-to-lifers. Just easier to dismiss them as crazy. And they are crazy, but why? What's at the root of it?. I see it as the action/reaction dynamic in a fallen world that has propelled the human tragedy from time immemorial. The only solution is to find a way somehow to stand outside it, to refuse to participate in it. Until enough people do, the insanity, the violence, carnage, and the tears continue.
Along those lines let none of us soon forget the courageous effort of the Buddhist monks and nuns of Burma to stand outside of it. In the short run it looks as though they have failed, but in the long run we just don't know. But for now, it's just all so terribly, terribly sad.