12th and Delaware -- Film Review



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PARK CITY -- Shot on the front lines of the abortion war, "12th and Delaware" affords a more intimate look than we usually get of day-to-day reality for both providers and opponents of abortion. With abortion law as up-in-the-air as ever, the doc should generate interest during its coming HBO run even if it changes few minds.

Not intending to explore the moral issues a la "Lake of Fire," the film simply observes as participants on the debate's two extremes put their beliefs into action. Directors Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing found a perfect vantage point: a street corner in Fort Pierce, Florida, where a clinic providing abortion sits across the street from a center counseling women to carry pregnancies to term. Given a surprising level of access to the clinics, the filmmakers sit in with counseling sessions on both sides.

Anne, a spiky-haired woman accustomed to losing battles, employs a range of strategies -- from free ultrasounds to tiny models of fetal development -- to make teenaged girls view their pregnancies as fully-formed humans in need of their protection; in one particularly manipulative gesture, counselors write "Hi Daddy!" on an ultrasound image.

Across the street, the overweight and overburdened Candace watches through blinds as her patients are begged to reject abortion by picketers on the sidewalk. In the consultations we see, Candace strives to ensure that women aren't being forced into abortion by someone else. At the same time, she works to counter what she believes is disinformation originating across the street: She claims (the pro-lifers aren't given a chance to refute or defend this) that her opponents fudge their ultrasounds, telling women they're less far along in pregnancy than they are in hopes that the decision will be put off until it's too late for an abortion.

There's little doubt here that the filmmakers' sympathies lie with defenders of abortion rights, but to their credit they don't edit the anti-abortion material to caricature that side's views. Their portrait is as objective as it can be, in a place where unbiased coverage has come to seem almost impossible.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival (HBO Documentary Films)

Production company: Loki Films
Directors: Rachel Grady, Heidi Ewing
Executive producer: Sheila Nevins
Director of photography: Katherine Patterson
Music: David Darling
Editor: Enat Sidi
No MPAA rating, 80 minutes