Removing pro-life & pro-choice from abortion debates

Hush hopes to change the way people approach the highly divisive topic of abortion.

Hush hopes to change the way people approach the highly divisive topic of abortion.
Hush hopes to change the way people approach the highly divisive topic of abortion.
Supplied by Hush

There are few subjects as divisive as abortion. On one side, pro-life activists seek to protect human life in all its stages. On the other, pro-choice advocates promote abortion accessibility and a woman’s right to choose.

At least, that’s the simple version. It’s a controversy made murkier by politics, religion and morality — all factors one documentary team has sought to set aside to look at abortion as honestly as possible. 

Hush, a documentary on abortion, has been screening on campuses across Canada since International Women’s Day. It will screen at Queen’s on March 30. 

Earlier this month, the University of Winnipeg canceled the film’s screening on their campus, citing the demands of hosting the event. A Hush tour coordinator, however, said they received an e-mail from the university stating that the cancellation was due to the film’s content.

The Queen’s screening will be hosted by Inquire Publication and followed by a panel discussion with women who have either personal or professional experience with abortion.

“There’s a lot of controversy around [abortion] and there’s a lot of grey area … that will never be solved if people don’t talk about it,” Co-President of Inquire Polly Zhang said.

“I’m hoping [the event] opens up the discussion on abortion a little more,” Zhang, ArtSci ’17, added.

Hush producer Joses Martin, who comes from a pro-life background, partnered with pro-choice director Punam Kumar Gill to create the film. He said his and Kumar Gill’s opposing views on abortion made it possible to assess the subject for purely informational purposes.

“We had to put aside our opinions of the subject — you know the morality, or right and wrong of the subject — to just look at the information and to come to some real conclusions together,” Martin said.

The film investigates the long-term effects of physical abortion with a focus on whether there’s a connection between abortion and breast cancer, premature birth and mental health. 

For over two years, the team researched, filmed, interviewed and edited the film, with much of the time spent traveling throughout the U.S. and Canada. With such a controversial topic, it comes as no surprise that it was difficult to find professionals willing to share their experiences and research.

“Because the issue is so polarized, it meant people only seem willing to talk about it if they’re on one of the two extremes: either saying there are all these really bad things about abortion, or denying that there’s anything to worry about,” Martin said. Those who are more moderate in their views, meanwhile, were unwilling to be interviewed because it’s too political.

Even major health organizations — who Martin said have released claims that there’s no relationship between abortion and breast cancer — denied requests for interviews.

The unwillingness to share research stems from fears of swaying the debate one way or the other, Martin said. Pro-choice individuals are often unwilling to admit the potential dangers of abortion, while pro-life advocates don’t want to accept that some supposed risks are unfounded.

For Martin, his motivation to investigate abortion came from the disparity in information he’d encountered. 

While women he knew who’d had an abortion spoke out about the ways it harmed them personally, health organizations said otherwise. 

When people first hear an abortion film is screening, there’s always some backlash because many assume the documentary will have a slant, Martin said. But whatever their position, he said any reservations disappear once they’ve seen the film.

“It’s really worked a kind of miracle to break down some walls between extremes where only animosity has existed.”

While the documentary can’t answer all of the questions and emotions that arise from abortion, Martin said he hopes that at the very least it will start a healthy conversation. 

Hush screens on Wednesday, March 30 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Biosciences Complex in Room 1103.

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