Dr. George Tiller, whose Wichita abortion clinic is one of very few in the country which offers late-term abortions, was acquitted last Friday on various charges related to some abortions he had performed.
Perhaps nowhere in the country is abortion more hotly debated than in Wichita, Kansas. (Check out the comments on the Wichta Eagle article on this case.) Tiller’s clinic is a major lightning rod for the debate – he defiantly performs the very procedures most-demonized by abortion opponents, so-called “partial-birth” abortions, and attracts patients from all over the U.S. and even other countries.
Although it’s not really the subject of the film, the abortion issue looms over the “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” movie. The Pro-Life movement was the single thread binding all the Kansas conservatives we met. It even figured in our coverage of the Kansas State Fair, where Kansas For Life runs a popular booth.
Indeed, back in 1991, the “Summer of Mercy” Protests at Tiller’s clinic (and two others in Wichita) quickly became a political movement which swept many of the state’s Democratic politicians out of power.
Essentially, the trial which just completed was the result of the efforts of former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, who appears in our movie, and his supporters in the Kansas Pro-Life movement, who we spent much more time with. They believe that Dr. Tiller is not only violating deeply held moral beliefs but also breaking the law. His acquittal represents a major setback for them, and may point to a different direction in the national debate over this most contentious of issues.
No movie is going to solve the abortion debate and ours doesn’t even try. If you really want to wade into those waters, check out Tony Kaye’s searing and unforgettable documentary, “Lake of Fire.”
The only wisdom we can offer, based on our years spent with Kansas conservatives, is that how people view abortion is heavily determined by context (which leads to how the issue gets framed – is it a woman’s choice or is it murder?)
We met many Pro-Lifers who take their cause seriously and see it as the major way they could make the world a better place.
Whether you believe – as Thomas Frank does – that this is a backlash from the powerlessness of a de-unionized working-class in a de-industrializing America… well, see the movie and decide for yourself.