Controversial film on late-term abortions to be shown in Ireland

A controversial documentary following the lives of the only four doctors in the US who perform late-term abortions is set to be shown for the first time in Ireland next month.

The acclaimed film — which attempts to highlight why some medics provide the service despite suffering death threats and serious moral dilemmas, and why some women seek it — will headline the Irish Film Institute’s Stranger Than Fiction festival between Sep 26 and 29.

Titled After Tiller, the documentary follows the stories of four doctors who are continuing to perform third trimester abortions after Dr George Tiller, another medic offering the service, was shot dead in 2009 by a pro- life activist. His office had previously been fire-bombed.

The film will also focus on the reasons why some women seek the service — for reasons as diverse as severe birth defects uncovered in scans, finding out late that they are pregnant, and serious complications.

The documentary is set to be shown at a time of heightened tensions in Ireland over the separate issue of whether abortion should be allowed in this country after the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar, an issue which led to changes in Irish law.

The high-profile debate means the documentary’s Irish premiere is likely to be targeted by some pro-life protest groups.

However, while it is the same subject matter, late-term abortions differ significantly to more common terminations that occur within the first few months of pregnancy.

This is because terminations carried out in the third trimester often involve “partial birth” abortions which many pro-choice groups are uncomfortable to support.

The September showing of the film will also include a live question and answer session with one of the US doctors to perform late-term abortions, Dr Shelley Sella.

The discussion will be hosted by RTÉ journalist Keelin Shanley on Sep 28. The IFI said the film “encourages the audience to make up their own minds on this provocative issue, but challenges them not to judge”.

Among the other documentaries due to be screened during the annual Stranger Than Fiction festival are those on the Oct 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis (Here Was Cuba); the life of a man who survived the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp (Close To Evil); and The Great Hip Hop Hoax.

The latter film examines the tale of two Scottish teens who fooled the music industry into believing they were a Californian-based rap group — and what happened after they were found out.

* Full details of the IFI Stranger Than Fiction festival can be found at: http://www.ifi.ie/stf

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