12th & Delaware (2010)

12th & Delaware

12th & Delaware (2010). Directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady.

In Fort Pierce, Florida, a battle for abortion-rights is taking place at the intersection of 12th Street and Delaware Avenue. On one side of the street is the pro-life Pregnancy Care Center and across the street is an abortion clinic called A Women’s World.

Every day at the crack of dawn, a pro-life supporter keeps a watchful eye on the abortion clinic. Later in the day, more recruits show up and patrol the sidewalk outside of the clinic. They display signs and graphic images of unborn babies to the passing traffic. When women visit the clinic, the pro-life supporters call out to them and urge them not to go in.

All across America there are similar abortion battles taking place. Pro-life centers often appear next door or across the street from abortion clinics. The hope is that women will enter a pro-life clinic by mistake where they will be persuaded to continue with their pregnancy. In some cases they are offered financial support but sadly, these promises are almost never kept.

Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady do a masterful job of providing an engaging and fairly objective view of the two sides in 12th & Delaware. Both groups are given equal screen time but it is the pro-life group that has all of the “interesting” characters. The Hot Docs audience often groaned or gasped in disbelief at some of the things the film’s pro-life supporters were telling women in their clinic - that abortions can cause breast cancer or that condoms work only 80 per cent of the time.

I think it is fair to say that the pro-life supporters in the film aren’t representative of all people that share the pro-life stance. The film’s pro-life supporters tend to say or do almost anything to prevent an abortion. This sets up several scenes that are difficult to watch because they are so embarrassing! Oddly enough, this is one of the aspects of the film that I also found appealing. It reminded me a lot of Ewing and Grady’s previous film, Jesus Camp.

For me, the best moment in the film occurs when a woman pulls into the abortion clinic parking lot and confronts a pro-life supporter. She wants to know why the group must display graphic images of an unborn fetus to passing traffic, including her child’s school bus. This woman is obviously a Christian and tells the pro-life supporters that they are misguided and that there are better ways to get their message across.

Ewing and Grady had unprecedented cooperation and access to both groups, taking the viewer into each of their buildings for a detailed look at how they operate. The pregnancy center uses several tactics in persuading women to continue with their pregnancies - graphic videos, literature, ultrasounds and counseling. Across the street the abortion clinic operates in an environment of fear and heightened security. Cameras monitor the premises. Doctors are whisked into the clinic with sheets over their heads to protect their identities (during the filming of 12th & Delaware, abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was murdered in his church).

I was surprised to learn that there are over 4,000 pro-life pregnancy centers in the US and just over 850 abortion clinics. This well-crafted film doesn’t try to resolve any of the issues in the abortion battle but it provides a revealing look at both sides that is simply fascinating.

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Posted in Hot Docs at 3:45 PM