When I was growing up in the 1980's, I used to accompany my parents to abortion clinics where we would pray (the Rosary, mostly) and Mom & Dad would hand out pro-life literature and speak to women going into the clinic. At that time it was called "sidewalk councelling." They continued this kind of work until the aches and pains of aging would not allow them to stand on street corners for long periods of time. This was my first education in the all-important work of witness for the unborn and my parents were great teachers. My younger sister was also a good student. Today she is still active in pro-life work, together with her husband. The witness of parents, as we'll see a little later, is one of the strongest threats to abortion in our day and age.
The new film "The Matter of Life," in theaters for two nights only on May 16 and 17, presents another powerful witness to the cause for life. And with the recent leak of Supreme Court documents that could herald the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the film is more timely than ever.
Screenshot from "The Matter of Life." © 2022 The Matter Of Life. All Rights Reserved.
Sometimes, when I hear of a film like this, I worry that it will just be "preaching to the choir" as the saying goes. "The Matter of Life" does not. This well-rounded, well-researched, well-presented film encompasses the issue of abortion in the United States in a way that reaches out to everyone, no matter where they stand on the issue. I think it would be particularly helpful to people who sit on the fence of the abortion issue, people who, if they realized the truth, might choose to embrace the pro-life cause, like the film's writer/director Tracy Robinson did herself. So much disinformation is out there concerning abortion and the film makes great strides in bringing the truth to the forefront. "The Matter of Life" is informational, educational, human, and bold. Most powerful are the stories real women tell. Some had considered abortion and chose not to go through with it. Some had abortions and have struggled with healing. They tell of the thoughts that went through their head, thoughts that are most likely running through the heads of untold women throughout our county at this very moment.
Crystal telling her story in "The Matter of Life." © 2022 The Matter Of Life. All Rights Reserved.
"The Matter of Life" covers the history of the abortion debate in the US, the watershed of Roe v. Wade, the rise of the pro-abortion movement, and the infiltration of Planned Parenthood in the rhetoric of the discourse on this issue, which can at times be really confusing—plus so much more. Scott Klusendorf, founder and CEO of Life Training Institute, for example, tells how, when pro-life advocates try to talk to abortion supporters they have to work to keep coming back to the central issue and to one key question: Is the unborn one of us?
Here are some highlights that I found particularly insightful in "The Matter of Life."
- Presentation of the non-religious/atheist supporters of the pro-life cause
- The importance of pregnancy centers in providing help for expectant mothers
- A section that set forth the four greatest threats to the abortion industry in our time
Terrisa Bukovinac, the founder and president of Pro-Life San Francisco, an atheist, states that she believes being pro-life is "the most progressive value we can have." She started out pro-choice and an advocate of animal rights when a friend challenged her to turn her activism toward unborn humans. She rose to the challenge and her witness is inspiring.
Terrisa Bukovinac in "The Matter of Life." © 2022 The Matter Of Life. All Rights Reserved.
When speaking of pregnancy centers, Roland Warren, president and CEO of Care Net, notes that abortion is on the "revenue side" whereas pregnancy centers are on the "compassion side." Later on, he comments that we have to "overturn Roe v. Wade in our churches, our pews," because four in ten women who have abortions are Christian. He wonders, "Are our churches welcoming, non-judgmental places for women to go and find help? Do they know who they can talk to" in the church if they are in a crisis pregnancy situation? It is a worthy question to consider and perhaps to even look into at your own house of worship.
A good chunk of the second half of the film is dedicated to setting forth "the four greatest threats to the abortion industry." They are: 1) parents; 2) men; 3) Christians, and 4) former abortion workers.
Drawing on statistics and people's personal expertise and experience, the film expounds on these four groups. You yourself might find that you fit into one or more of these groups. We have power that the abortion industry fears. Like the 2019 drama film, Unplanned, that told the story of Abby Johnson and her journey from being a Planned Parenthood employee to a vocal pro-life advocate, "The Matter of Life" tells the powerful story of Dr. Anthony Levantino, an OB/GYN and former abortion provider who changed his tune when his own daughter died after being hit by a car. He explains exactly what happens during an abortion and how he came to stop doing abortions.
Dr. Anthony Levantino in "The Matter of Life." © 2022 The Matter Of Life. All Rights Reserved.
While I believe this movie is important for people to see, it's not perfect. The editing could have been tighter for a shorter run time, especially in some of the stories. There is a section in the film that shows the brutal truth of what the aftermath of abortion looks like. This is not a flaw but something to be aware of. Thankfully, there is a "warning" that this is coming and if a viewer chooses not to see these graphic images, one can close their eyes for the 50-second segment.
Since the film highlights that parents are one of the four groups most influential for women making pregnancy decisions, I want to witness to that power from my own experience. I was a high school sophomore when the 1984 film "The Silent Scream" (which is mentioned in this film) was released. The film showed an abortion via ultrasound which was a fairly new technology at that time. My parents showed it to me and we talked about it, the immorality of abortion and why we pray at abortion clinics. I also recall a conversation I once had with my mother when I was sixteen. I asked her what she would do if I got pregnant. She told me, "Of course your dad and I would be disappointed after all we've taught you but, of course, we would support you and your baby and help you through everything." Thankfully, nothing like that ever came to pass and I entered the convent after graduation, but I've never forgotten the compassion and love in her answer.
A screenshot of "The Silent Scream" with Bernard Nathanson in "The Matter of Life." © 2022 The Matter Of Life. All Rights Reserved.
It is that same compassion and love which shines through "The Matter of Life." I echo what David Bereit, author and former CEO of 40 Days for Life, says about the film: "This is a masterful piece of work and I hope all of us are willing to do what we can to get every person possible in front of this documentary, The Matter of Life."
For tickets to see the film on May 16th or 17th, please see Fathom Events here. Also, there are a multitude of resources on the film's official website: thematteroflife.org for anyone who may need them including pregnancy care, after abortion support, adoption and foster care, etc. There is also information there on outreach and activism.