The A Word–a film by Lindsay Ellis
“The A Word” is not an easy film to watch. It is a 30 minute look at how the experience of abortion affects women who have had abortions…including the film-maker, Lindsay.
The uncomfortable truth that had me squirming as I watched the movie, is that both sides of the abortion debate are so focused on the fetus that we don’t really spend enough time on the women who’ve gone through the procedure.
We meet the head of a post-abortion counseling hotline, Aspen says it best when she says that
The pro-choice/pro-life debate in the US hurts a lot of things. And it certainly hurts women who’ve had abortions. The goals of either side is to keep the arguments as simple as possible, and to shut down anything else that sort of doesn’t align with that message.
What happens is that all the yelling at each other keeps the voices of women who’ve actually experienced abortions from being a part of that discussion in any way.
As a pro-choice woman, perhaps especially because I’ve volunteered with Planned Parenthood…I’m guilty of this, too. I want to cheer in triumph when reports come out saying things like Abortion Study no long term ill-effects on emotional well-being, and if I’m being totally honest, shove it into pro-life demonstrator’s faces. My gut instinct when I see things like the moment in Ellis’ film where she interviews a pro-life woman who had four abortions and she holds up a sign saying “I regret my abortion” and says that all the women who attend the rally will hold that sign…is to doubt the veracity that every woman who’ll be holding the sign actually had an abortion…because I don’t want to believe that so many women do. I want the side of the debate that helps justify the hours of my life I’ve spent with Planned Parenthood, the letter writing campaigns, the hatred I feel for protestors who harass women coming in and out of the clinics.
It’s not easy to have a documentary teach you a lesson you may not want to learn.
Growing up, the idea of going through an abortion didn’t seem like a big deal to me. It was distant, impersonal, uncommon and more just something people debated about during election seasons. But my circumstances changed. And with a change in circumstance comes a change in perspective.
Lindsay is struggling with her decision to have had an abortion. She doesn’t fit neatly into any of the little boxes that the pro-choice or pro-life lobbies would like her to be in.
We see her talk with her mother, who has far less ambivalence than Lindsay does about her own choice to have an abortion following a rape, and Lindsay’s choice to have one. She talks with the baby’s father, who comes across largely as frustrated that they’re still talking about this, with one exception when he asks her if she’d named the baby. In taping a pro-life rally, Lindsay is moved to speak to step from behind the camera to the front and speaks to the crowd… about how isolating the experience is.
One of the key things that comes up is that with very few exceptions, there is almost no support for women who’ve had abortions. The post-abortion counseling that does exist is largely Christian and conducted by pro-life groups. Which is not necessarily helpful for many women…as they will have expectations for you to feel guilt in the same way that my compatriots expect you to feel good about your decision. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for ambivalence, and ambivalence is Ellis’ primary emotion.
It is actively painful at time to watch. I was moved to tears more than once. I knew Ellis was good–I’ve been a fan of hers for over a year. But I had no idea that her potential was this great. This is a movie that deserves, NEEDS to be seen…and if you’d like to see it to, read about how you can obtain a screening copy and help fund submitting the movie to various film festivals here.
Is it a perfect movie? No.
My first wish is that it be longer. I think the subject is so meaty and that Ellis is such a strong film-maker that a 60 or 90 minute documentary could have been even more powerful. However, having read her blog, I know she struggled with funding the documentary as it is, so that may be a key reason that it isn’t longer.
My second is that I wish Ellis had given a little more time to pro-choice groups. We see a pro-life woman say some things that are inaccurate (that there’s documented prof that abortion causes emotional damage and that it has physical consequences…there is no such documented proof). I’m worried that perhaps there aren’t enough pro-choice organizations thinking about aftercare.
Lindsay–if you ever read this…I just want to say thank you. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for saying an uncomfortable truth. I promise to actively try to open my mind and legitimize opinions that aren’t my own, and to not shove you or women who have gone through what you have in the box I’d prefer that you/they fit into.
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