Why Pro-Life People Should Watch “After Tiller”

This is a guest post by my formerly pro-choice friend Deanna Unyk. Read more about how she became pro-life here.  Read about our upcoming event in Portland here.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes.

“After Tiller” is a documentary that follows the lives of the remaining four late-term abortion providers in the United States.  It chronicles their family lives, what they were doing before they started performing abortions, as well as the kinds of harassment and threats they have been the victims of at the hands of pro-life activists.  The documentary also interviews women who came in for late-term abortions.

Watch the trailer below:

This is a very pro-choice documentary, but there are several reasons why I think it is important for pro-life people to watch it with compassion.

After_tiller_filmThe compassionate thoughts that this movie encourages can help us to interact in a compassionate manner when we encounter abortion providers and post-abortive people.  Acting compassionately towards others is both a pragmatically wise and the morally good thing to do.  It is pragmatically wise for the pro-life movement to treat abortionists and post-abortive women with compassion because we want pro-choice people to hear us out, consider our reasoning, and eventually agree with us.  Nobody is going to want to do that if they think we’re all jerks.

Abby Johnson recently wrote an article about this film and had the following to say:

The reason this documentary was even able to be made was because of the prolife movement. Yes, you read that correctly. You see, we give them the material. A self-proclaimed prolifer killed Dr. Tiller. Self-proclaimed prolifers bomb abortion facilities. Self-proclaimed prolifers celebrated the deaths of abortionists. Self-proclaimed prolifers protested Dr. Tiller’s funeral with signs that said “Tiller rot in hell” and “Thank God Tiller’s dead.” I remember. I saw them with my own eyes. We do it when we, as prolifers, call abortion providers “baby killers” and “murderers.” We do it when we use crazy, inflammatory language like “death chamber” and “slaughter house” when referring to abortion facilities. We make ourselves look weird. We become unrelatable. We fit the stereotype that prochoicers are SO desperate to stick on all of us. We make it so easy for them to say, “Look. They are ALL like that.”


Another reason to watch this documentary is because a lot of pro-choice people are watching it.  If we are going to respond adequately to pro-choice people, we need to know where they are coming from when they make arguments.  On that note, here are some of the issues the documentary brings up.

  1. Rape
  2. Fetal deformity
  3. Back-alley abortions

These are issues that are on most pro-choice people’s minds when they are thinking about abortion and it really should be on the minds of pro-life people too.  These are not the only issues brought up in the movie, but they are the ones that stood out most prominently to me.  I try and respond to all three of these issues in a similar way.

Step One: Find Genuine Common Ground

It is important to me that the person I am talking to knows that I genuinely care about rape victims, parents of children with severe disabilities and women who would be injured or killed during back-alley abortions.  I have a notebook at home where I wrote down all the common ground I have with people concerned about these and similar issues.  I’ve found this to be very helpful and I encourage you all to do the same.

Step Two: Give an Analogy

After I find common ground, I try to get into the philosophy of these issues.  A good way to do this is to use an analogy. For example, imagine that a woman is raped and becomes pregnant.  She decides to keep the child.  However, on the child’s third birthday he starts to look like the rapist.  She starts having nightmares every night.  She can’t look at her child without having flashbacks. She is starting to hate her son and is spiraling into a depression. Should she be legally allowed to kill her child?  If the answer is no, then we need to go to step three.

Step Three: Discuss Disanalogies

Most pro-choice people will point out differences between the analogy you gave and pregnancy.  When discussing late-term abortions, most people will concede the unborn child is a person because there are very few differences biologically between a third trimester fetus and a newborn. However, if they don’t concede the unborn child is a person, listen carefully to what their definition of personhood is and make sure to ask clarification questions when necessary to avoid committing a straw man fallacy (addressing a dumbed down/ less powerful version of their argument).  Once you have a clear understanding of their personhood view you can test it by seeing if their definition excludes humans they may be uncomfortable excluding (like newborns) or includes too many organisms (like all animals).

That being said it’s more likely that they are going to make a bodily rights argument instead of a personhood argument.  There are at least three different kinds of bodily rights arguments, so again, make sure you actually understand their reasoning before you respond.

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Question: Have you watched “After Tiller”? What did you take away from the film?

Deanna Unyk used to write for a pro-choice blog she started called "Restringing the Violinist," but she recently changed her position on abortion. She now writes for the pro-life side and intends on working full-time in the pro-life movement after she graduates.

Deanna would like to use her experiences and history to help teach pro-life advocates how to interact better with the people who disagree with them. She is also passionate about helping the pro-life movement to be more welcoming towards pro-life minorities, including LGBT and secular pro-life people.

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