There was no reason to expect “28 Days on the Pill” to be an even-handed, unbiased documentary looking at scientific facts of contraceptive pills, and in that respect I was not disappointed. After all, the film’s introduction declares:
Christian worker, his family and a nurse friend investigate throughout North America to uncover the truth about the birth control pill. The debate has been raging for a decade and yet so few people know about it.
How could this be? How does the pill really work? Can everyday oral contraceptives really cause abortions? Why are so many people uninformed?
Discover how this could be a deadly silence. Find out what has shocked doctors and nurses. Be informed! Inform others!
Yet I did find myself surprised by the documentary over all, not because of the “facts” it presented, but because of the obvious intentions it had to persuade other Christians away from birth control, exposing a schism within the pro-life movement that so far has gone mostly unnoticed.
The documentary itself actually debuted over a year ago, but appears to be on a second set of legs due to its recent release on DVD, as well as streaming video. In the video, a Canadian couple pack their children into a car to wander across the U.S. and Canada, filming college girls who can’t explain how the pill works and doctors who for the most part state that since it can’t be proven that the pill doesn’t allow “fertilized eggs to starve to death,” that the pro-life community needs to avoid it all all costs.
But what is actually quite compelling about the documentary is that the blame for this apparent abortifacient Holocaust isn’t placed at the feet of the pro-choice movement, as usually happens. Instead, it is presented as a clear and deliberate conspiracy by the pro-life movement, especially their medical professionals, who know that the pill causes abortions but are willfully misleading their patients to minimize controversy and absolve the parents of their guilt.
A large portion of the documentary is dedicated to Drs. Walter Larimore and Joe Stanford, two doctors who formerly served on the Focus on the Family’s Physician’s Resource Council, and whose work has become the cornerstone of the “birth control as abortifacient” movement. They argue that women are being deceived by their doctors, who aren’t allowing them the full information that progesterone that thins their uterine lining could possibly stop an egg from implanting, and that those doctors are violating doctor/patient relationship. “One of the things that is lost in this debate,” says Dr. Stafford in an interview, “Is ‘What do women think? What do women believe? What do women want? What is important for women to know?’”
Dr. Larimore agrees, stating, that the “vast majority of women” want to know that the pill could possibly cause and abortion “even if it is unproven, even if it is just a theory.” Why? Because, Larimore claims, the women say, “We are good girls. We can make our own decisions because after all, it involves our bodies, and our baby.”
Those “good girls” come with a rather surprising statistic. According to the doctors, of all women who believe that life begins at the moment of fertilization, only 70 percent of them say they would chose another form of birth control, a somewhat small number if they truly believe that the pill potentially causing abortions.
Although the villains in this documentary are the doctors, it’s not just any doctors on which the filmmakers focus their ire. Pro-choice doctors are sharing the potential abortifacient information, the narrator tells us, saying that they have no problems with the nature of the drug or the potentially endless abortions. It is the Pro-life doctors who are willfully leading their patients down a road of possible damnation by not sharing the true nature of the drug.
The doctors most at fault here, the filmmakers seem to believe, are those who form the scientific majority in the Physicians’ Resource Council, a board of physicians gathered to advise Focus on the Family on medical issues. The filmmakers stopped by the Focus on the Family compound in Colorado Springs, attempting to get a “physician’s statement” on the birth control pill, but were denied such a statement. The narrator then explained that a majority of the council members stated that they believe the pill has no abortifacient effects on women, and that Focus on the Family has never done a publication nor any radio broadcasts in which it covered the topic of birth control pills.
In an interview with Dr. W.D. Hager, the only pro-birth control pill doctor willing to speak with the filmcrew, the doctor stated unequivocally, “These pills still very effectively inhibit ovulation…If I felt that birth control pills were altering the ability of the pregnancy, which I’ve already stated begins at fertilization, to implant, then I would not be prescribing birth control pills.” Dr. Hager, a current member of the Physician’s Resource Council and a former member of the Bush FDA advisory committee regarding Emergency Contraception (Hager came out against E.C), spoke as a firm advocate of the drug, stating that all families concerned that life begins at conception can feel free to use the pill without worry.
Still, even having pro-life doctors tell then that the pill will not cause abortions doesn’t relieve these messengers from their duty to tell other Christians that taking the pill could potentially be murdering their children. Dr. Stafford argues against Dr. Hager’s conclusion, stating, “There is no absolute proof either way, so you have to look at the majority of the evidence, and the majority of the evidence says that it is an abortifacient.”
If there is no proof either way, then why do the sides chose to continue waging this battle at all? According to Robert Fleischmann of Christian Life Resources, you will find your proof, once you get to heaven. Once you arrive, you will be greated by all of the children you ever aborted, whether you knew about them or not.
The war against birth control is a daunting and unpopular battle, even among those who consider themselves pro-life. The “28 Days on the Pill” filmmakers focused only on pro-life doctors to interview, and found themselves unable to get any response from the majority of pro-birth control contacts they reached out to, with only 2 of their 25 requests being answered. That a majority of the Physicians Resource Council, most Catholic doctors,and now a growing number in the evangelical movement, all believe that birth control is not in fact a sin, shows that despite their tenaciousness, the anti-birth control movement has a steep hill to climb to change minds. They are truly a small, but very very vocal, minority.