Abortion Rights Blog

The national pro-choice campaign
after tiller

After Tiller

after tiller

Later term abortion documentary After Tiller, showing in UK

In Britain we are now seeing the ‘Americanisation’ of anti-choice tactics, with groups such as Abort67 (named after the year the Abortion Act was introduced and women in Britain were able to access safe, legal abortions) and 40 Days for Life are picketing and praying outside abortion clinics displaying provocative images and boasting about the women they turned away on their blogs. In September several student unions also reported anti-choice activity on their campuses.

Anti-choice activists (often from very fringe organisations) are choosing to focus on women – often extremely vulnerable women – at clinics rather than involve themselves in evidence based discussions in the media or in Parliament. 

Nadine Dorries and other anti choice MPs have consistently attempted to use the time limit discussion as a tactic to draw the debate towards more restrictive abortion laws and increased barriers in the way of women accessing terminations generally. The current time limit in England, Wales and Scotland stands at 24 weeks in most circumstances. Later abortions are rare, fewer than 2% of terminations occur after 20 weeks, but these are often the most vulnerable women in difficult situations (as you have seen from the film). We have been clear in Abortion Rights that we can’t accept one restriction that leads to the overall undermining of access and right to abortion, that’s what I think attacks on the time limit, on counselling, on health cuts, on creating ‘wedges’ amongst us over sex-selection and about when a doctor signs  a form. We must be clear that the people pushing these points are against abortion full stop, but they use these points in the media and to squeeze the legislation to make it difficult for ordinary women to take up their legal and medical right to a safe termination without stigma. 

It is true that the abortion debate is much worse in the USA, but this should stand as a warning to pro-choice activists in Britain that if we are not vigilant, where America leads Britain often follows.

Abortion is not discussed, we know that in their lifetime, 1/3 women will have an abortion. However there are few representations of this common occurrence in film or TV, where it is covered in the media it is often to make points about something else – irresponsible women, the state of the economy etc (I say this as someone who deals with journalists asking for case-studies or telling me the ‘angles’ they want to use).

We believe that this is bad for a society that passes laws, educates children and makes healthcare decisions about funding if there isn’t a proper, well informed debate by people who are actually affected.

I think we should thank Lana Wilson and Martha Shane’s for making a sensitive and extremely moving documentary, is a story of people who risk their lives every day for their work, many of whom were close colleagues of Dr. Tiller and now battle to maintain this service in the face of increasing provocation and harassment from the pro-life movement. It shines a light on the real situations faced by real people. This is something we at Abortion Rights have to highlight constantly, that whatever the situation or whatever our own views, we should trust women to make their own decisions about their own bodies and their own circumstances. 

I read that the directors wanted to make this documentary to take heat out of the debate but shine more of a light on the real situations and that the people shown in the film agreed to take part because ‘it would be easier to go through the experience with [people who were helping them understand the process they were going through]’. I think we need more of that.

Kerry Abel

Screening Dates 

14th/15th/16th January Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast
17th-23rd January Ritzy Picturehouse, London
22nd/23rd January Glasgow Film Theatre
7th/8th February Ipswich Film Theatre
10th-14th February Broadway Cinema, Nottingham
10th March Bath Picturehous, Bath

After tiller is now available to rent on iTunes