United States | 88 mins | English
Screened to great acclaim at Sundance this winter, this documentary about third-trimester abortion practitioners hardly sounds life-affirming on its surface. Yet Martha Shane and Lana Wilson have managed to inject a welcome dose of rationality to the hotly contested topic. They offer an intimate portrait of the only four doctors in the United States who still perform the procedure. Interspersing quiet interviews with some breathtaking scenery, they show the impact of their work on their families, patients and towns. As the film explains, Roe v. Wade allowed states to ban third-trimester abortions except those that protected the health of the mother. Today they are outlawed in only nine states. But are only available in the three states where these doctors practice: New Mexico, Maryland and Colorado. The doctors all risk their lives. Their friend and mentor Dr. George Tiller was assassinated by an antiabortionist in Kansas in May 2009. Shane and Wilson move away from the picket lines to show life inside the clinics. Far from the signs and shouting, in their consultation rooms these doctors and patients face difficult choices with inspiring bravery and care. The film’s most powerful message may be the stark contrast between those humane exchanges and the bitter language of protest outside.