The controversial documentary, Hush, which was screened by Campus Pro-Life at the University of Calgary, left audiences with different emotions about the film and the supposed impacts of an abortion while an anti-abortion activist and a neutral social conflict academic agree on one next step forward.
In July 2016, “pro-choice” director Punam Kumar Gill, “pro-life” executive producer Drew Martin, and “neutral” producer Joses Martin released this documentary on their research and findings of historical events, real-life stories, experiences, claims, and studies that supposedly show the effects of abortion on the physical and mental well-being of women.
Hush has received mixed reviews and two of the documentary’s sources felt compelled to comment on the film.
Dr. David A. Grimes, one of only two sources in the film who defended abortion activities, wrote an article for HuffPost expressing his dismay over the film’s pro-life stance.
“The film discounts the world’s medical and public health communities, which, after decades of careful study, agree that abortion is safe,” states Dr. Grimes. He also notes the film featured 28 sources who allege dangerous impacts related to abortion compared to himself and one other source who argued the opposite.
Barbara Kay, another source for the film and a writer for the National Post, stated the film was “an objective overview of the situation,” citing director Kumar Gill interviewed various sources, including women victimized by abortion, an oncologist concerned with the impact of abortion on her patients, and a statistician who reportedly discovered a relation between abortion and breast cancer.
In addition, several of the film’s sources have battled to have their studies be accepted as their findings faced criticism.
In February, anti-abortion activist Nelson Nottveit from Campus Pro-Life at the University of Calgary, hosted a screening of Hush on the campus.
Among the approximately 20 attendees were high school teachers Catherine Gay and Natalie Ross from the Foundations For the Future Charter Academy.
At the end of the two-hour long documentary, Ross explained that the film “hasn’t really strengthened or unstrengthened” her pro-choice stance.
When asked of what she thought of the film, Ross said, “I was kind of expecting three different perspectives and what I got was just one person’s opinion.”
“It wasn’t as diverse as I thought but yet I did like that they were focusing on information as opposed to being necessarily pro-choice or pro-life,” she clarified.“Once we do not have that conversation, we are still going to be a polarized country on this issue.” — Rita Yembilah
Kumar Gill “almost seemed to be cutting the pro-choicers off and letting the pro-lifers have more of a say. That being said, she was picking people that were pro-life but had evidence to back it up.”
On the opposite end, Gay, who is pro-life, saw the documentary differently.
“I wasn’t expecting the perspective of the [director,] as a pro-choice [director,] to be so open... really wanting to get to the depth of the issue despite beginning to end, maintaining a pro-choice position,” she said.
The documentary left audiences with one note, saying that women need to know more. As two women with different perspectives watched the same film, they left with different views but one similar response.
“Everyone should do the best to educate themselves,” Ross said. “In the end, what we ultimately want is for people to be happy and to value human life — we just do it in two different ways. If we actually are willing to have these conversations, we can find some common ground that will actually help women on a larger scale.”
“Without these conversations,” Ross continued, “both sides are just as guilty in making things worse for women’s health in the long run.”
Gay said one way to normalize future discussions is by “making scientific studies available.”
“Having the courage to speak about it with respect, without any sort of bias, is very important,” she said.
Somebody else who agrees with this notion is Rita Yembilah, a Mount Royal University instructor who focuses on social conflict and political ecology.
Yembilah, who attained a master’s in cultural studies and a doctorate in international development, believes in a pre-counselling space for women who are thinking of getting an abortion.
“Because of the gravity of what the person is contemplating, I don’t think it is enough to say that this is an individual decision,” she said. “You need space to be able to just [tell] someone that will not judge you or push you in a particular direction.”
Yembilah said that “if a person decides that they want to have an abortion, don’t let the end of the procedure be the end of the treatment.”
“Let there be an extension to that,” she said, adding that abortion recipients can be monitored, both physically and mentally, through a series of scheduled check-ups.
“So if there are, for instance, any psychological impacts, it is caught early.”
Yembilah, who said she is fairly neutral on the abortion issue, said, “If you are able to have those kinds of things, it makes it much easier for people to have those conversations after the fact and then become the voice of reason. Once we do not have that conversation, we are still going to be a polarized country on this issue.”
When Nottveit was asked if he agreed with Yembilah’s suggestions, he replied, “That seems a great step forward because if there is awareness, then at least it will become something that can be discussed more openly.”
- By Rosemary De Souza, Katherine Holford