Kloipy’s Documentary Series: Lake of Fire
Tony Kaye’s ‘Lake of Fire’ is shot in black and white, which is ironic because the subject matter is shown in those terms but the message tells you that it can only be gray. The subject is abortion. I think they should show this movie in every Planned Parenthood and Birthright across America. A discussion of the topic can’t be truly had unless you see both sides, and that’s what Kaye’s film does.
This is not an easy movie. In fact, I struggled to make it through the whole movie. About 15 minutes into it, they show the full procedure and the aftermath of it. The camera doesn’t flinch and watching it really hits home that ‘abortion’ isn’t just a talking point. This is what it is, this is what happens, and this is what it looks like. When you see it, there is no way to think of it as right to life, or my body my choice. This is the cold hard fact and it is difficult not to be struck by it. When you see what was going to be a hand and a face, now laying in a blood soaked pan, it’s hard to think of a fetus as just a cell. And on the other hand there are shots of women who had tried to do this for themselves before Roe vs. Wade, and the consequences that came from it; devastating.
The film switches to show the other side. The radical right to life movement. Doctors being shot, buildings destroyed, and a scary vision of what can only be described as religious delusion. There are interviews with those in the movement who believe that they are doing the work of God. They believe that they are fighting against evil and demonic forces and they want to be justified in the killing of doctors and staff. Like any dangerous religion, these people truly believe that to be righteous in the eyes of the Lord, they must take everything to the extreme. In the Bible, there are sections where God had his followers kill entire villages, women and children included. There is Passover, with the first born being killed by an angel. In the Old Testament children are sentenced to death without a ‘right-to-life’ act, and obviously there isn’t a section in the gospels about abortion. It comes down to a case of something that has just been picked up over the years and now followed as if it is a creed. It’s frightening to listen to some of these people. There is no doubt they are genuine when you listen to them speak about the murder of doctors and their staff as holy retribution. They act like they deserve medals.
The movie is compelling throughout its three hour run time, but what stuck with me is the woman they continue to go back to, who’s procedure you see done at the beginning of the film. She’s in her mid 30’s but you can see the wear of her life on her face. The bags under her eyes and the sadness behind her smile speak only of someone who hasn’t had a break in years. She tells us that she’s struggling from drug addiction and had to have facial reconstructions due to an ex-boyfriend who couldn’t keep his fists off of her. She tells us that she has been going to night courses to become a nurse and trying to turn her life around. She also informs us as she waits in the doctor’s office, that she has had four abortions previous to this one. It would be easy for us to judge this woman, but Kaye wisely just lets her speak for herself. This woman knows that she is not fit to be a parent; she can barely hold herself together. Would it be better if she were to take the child to full term with a drug addiction resulting in a child with disabilities? We don’t know her full story and can’t understand why she chooses to do this, but the one thing that’s for sure is that it’s not easy, regardless if she does it or not. The film ends with her after the procedure is done. She talks a little about how she feels coming out of it. She says that this is the right decision. But then she breaks down. The camera just looks on as you watch this woman weep from a deep place. And it hurts. It’s like watching someone losing a piece of their soul, another weary spirit lost in the fog.
I’m an agnostic now in terms of my beliefs but I was raised in a Christian home. When I was very young my parents belonged to Birthright. They were friends with people in the radical pro-life movement. I knew people who went to jail for their type of protest (never any violent reasons). My parents were never radical, but from as long as I can remember at a young age I would go along with them (as children do at that age) to whatever my parents would go to for the cause. This included protests and marches. I remember being frightened by the images of dismembered babies that were on large signs these people marched about with and the pamphlets they always kept on the ready. Images that I wish I could erase from my mind. It was almost a sick fascination some of these people have with these photos, parading around with them, keeping them in their house, or showing them to people not asking to be shown. Or there were the videos they would show including more of these horrific visions. I was never the only child brought along to these things, and looking back on it as an adult, how is it right to bring a 5 year old child into something like this that they have no idea about? Many children were used in the protest as a way of saying that ‘look what happens when you don’t have an abortion’ or ‘do you want to kill my child, too?’
With these foundations, I grew up believing in the pro-life movement. After having the images of dead children in your head and getting the message of ‘it’s wrong’ pounded into you, it’s difficult to compile your own opinion. But my faith in Christianity waned as I turned into a teenager, and I started to question a lot of the beliefs I had. I’ve always been an independent person and thought for myself, so when I reached an age when I could, I began to think differently. What I’m getting at is this:
When I was 18 my girlfriend at the time got pregnant. She decided to have an abortion without my knowledge. I didn’t know at the time but I went with her to the doctor afterwards when she went back in for a follow up. When she told me I was devastated, shocked, and I didn’t know how to handle it. When we got to the doctor’s office it was first thing in the morning. I got out of the car and a man in a vest walked up to us to escort us to the door. It was barely 8am but there was already a crowd of people there. With those same signs I had grown up seeing. And they were not just holding them, they were yelling, at me, at us. “Be a real father!” someone screamed. “Don’t do this, just don’t do this. You don’t know what it’s like!” a woman said. “God will judge you for this, daddy!” There was such sarcasm and just vile hatred emphasized on the ‘daddy’, it cut straight down to my heart and twisted. This was almost 9 years ago but those voices are still yelling somewhere inside of my subconscious. And sometimes I think they always will be. To hear these things yelled at you, when you may be at the lowest point of your life, is not only heartbreaking, it’s cruel.
While we were there, a girl no older than 15 was there. She was going in for her second abortion. And when she finished she came out with a smile on her face, asking her mom to take her to lunch. And this isn’t right either. Which brings me back around to my argument at the beginning; the issue of abortion is not black and white. None of us can really know until we are in the situation, and even afterwards it’s hard to be sure. If I was pressed to ask what stance I believe now, I would have to say that I’m pro-choice. It’s going to happen whether it’s legal or not, and being that it is legal will save more lives. Some children, as hard as it is, are probably better off not being born into a family that can’t care for them or shipped off into the adoption system. How can you force a woman to keep a child conceived from rape or incest? Abortion shouldn’t be used as birth control, but the option for it should not be taken away.
At the same time, I understand the pain that comes with that choice. It’s not anything to be taken lightly. I still wonder who that child might have been. What they would look like. Looking back on the situation now, I am able to understand, that I was just another naïve kid, who wouldn’t have known what to do with a child. I wouldn’t have been able to provide the best life for anyone. How could I teach anything about life when I was still too stupid to grasp the real world myself? I most definitely would not be in the spot that I am today, with my wonderful wife and daughter. It doesn’t make it easier, but I can understand that the decision was for the best. Although it’s a regret that I can’t make right.
Like anything in life, it’s not good to be radical on either side to the point where you have no room to listen. We can’t understand anything without putting ourselves in both sets of shoes. We are on this earth for such a short period of time, and the idea that we can claim to be right or 100% sure about anything, is little more than a bullshit construct of hoping to shout above the rest to still the uncertainty of life. Without understanding, we can never hope to evolve. And without evolving we doom ourselves, to once again beat each other to death with sticks.