As the 2012 race for the Republican presidential nomination wraps up, abortion rights are once again at the forefront of the national conversation. Whether that means Rick Santorum bashing Mitt Romney for his flip-flopping stance on the topic, or Newt Gingrich’s push to defund Planned Parenthood, abortion, once again, has a huge rhetorical platform.
Commitment to a “pro-life” stance is being used as a tool for Republican candidates to out-conservative each other. And it’s smart: Generally, we see higher turnout from party faithful and extremist voters during the primary process, and candidates have to pander to those people.
With that in mind, it’s worth returning to PBS’s acclaimed Frontline special, The Last Abortion Clinic. The 2005 film explores the struggle between the antiabortion spokespeople and Mississippi’s last remaining abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
What ensues is an all-out war on abortion in Mississippi, and the story of one pro-choice organization’s struggle to hold on. Throughout the film, the documentarians show a number of different ways that antiabortion advocates are hoping to slow down the process—for example, forcing the mother to see an ultrasound before making her decision, requiring parental consent for minors, or a 48-hour waiting period between the woman’s consultation and the actual procedure.
The stories of these women are told in a way that incites the viewer to challenge the dominant pack’s quest. Through a well-crafted and generally unbiased lens, Frontline’s question still rings true: Should a select group have power over another group’s choice?
With the economy in a state of outright despair, I would be surprised if the outcome of the race between President Obama and, likely, Mitt Romney, were determined solely on the issue of abortion. But the question is still polarizing, and with the ever-changing restrictions placed on clinics, American public cannot allow these matters to fall by the wayside.
The Last Abortion Clinic is an indicator of what happens when one side is allowed to dominate the discussion.