The seemingly sleepy intersection of Delaware Ave. and 12th St. in Fort Pierce, Fla. is ground zero for the ferocious abortion rights battle raging in America. On one corner stands the abortion clinic A Woman’s World; across the street is the Pregnancy Care Center, an ambiguously named pro-life outpost dedicated to heading off abortion seekers at the pass.
12TH & DELAWARE provides a compelling, fly-on-the-wall view of the ideological trench warfare that takes place daily at this crossroads, where women struggle to deal with unwanted pregnancy. Directed by Oscar® nominees Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s (“Jesus Camp”), the intimate documentary debuts MONDAY, AUG. 2 (9:00-10:30 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO
According to recent Gallup polls, more people currently identify themselves as pro-life than pro-choice for the first time since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, and the Guttmacher Institute estimates there are more than 4,000 pro-life crisis pregnancy centers in America today, versus about 850 abortion clinics.
Two years in the making, 12TH & DELAWARE puts viewers in the middle of this intractable conflict. Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady received unprecedented access to both an abortion clinic and a crisis pregnancy center, contacting more than 100 crisis pregnancy centers before settling on the one in Fort Pierce.
As pro-life volunteers offer a terrifying portrayal of abortion to their clients, staff members at the clinic fear for their doctors’ lives and fiercely protect their clients’ right to choose. Pregnant women arriving at the abortion clinic often encounter people toting signs with anti-abortion slogans and pictures of bloody fetuses, claiming to speak for their unborn children.
Many crisis pregnancy centers, like the Pregnancy Care Center, set up directly across the street from abortion clinics. Anne, the Pregnancy Care Center director, uses her limited time with each woman to discourage abortion, from buying lunch and sharing anti-abortion literature, to encouraging the viewing of graphic videos. The center also offers free ultrasounds, something many clients cannot otherwise afford.
The owners of A Woman’s World see the tactics used by the crisis pregnancy center as harming women’s lives and infringing on their right to choose. “I just want to go over there and shake those people,” says Candace, who runs the clinic with her husband Arnold, after learning one of her clients was misinformed about how many weeks pregnant she actually was. “Why are you messing up these girls’ lives?” she asks.
While most run-ins between the two camps are not violent, the two sides are equally passionate about their beliefs. An elderly pro-life activist waves a tiny model of a baby fetus, yelling, “See these little babies here…This is like your granddaughter you love so much.”
Arnold drives the abortion doctor – known to pro-life activists as “the killer” – to and from the clinic hidden under a white sheet as a precaution aimed at protecting his identity. When a muscular pro-lifer tracks down the doctor’s car miles from the clinic and stakes it out, the doctor has no idea his cover is blown. These scenes, coupled with the fact that 12TH & DELAWARE was shot in the same year abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was murdered in his church, underscore the very real safety fears of many abortion doctors. Meanwhile, women in need become pawns in a fierce ideological war with no end in sight.
“Crisis pregnancy centers represent the primary and most powerful strategy in today’s pro-life movement,” says co-director Heidi Ewing. “We always felt it was necessary to show both sides of this decades-old but increasingly hot-button issue.”
Co-director Rachel Grady adds, “The film became a chronicle of the raging battle occurring between two neighbors locked in a bitter personal and ideological struggle. We had to confront the very difficult task of cutting through the personal gripes of the protagonists and portraying as fairly as possible the daily realities of both sides of the street.”
An official selection of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, 12TH & DELAWARE is the latest documentary from Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, who also directed 2006’s “Jesus Camp,” which was nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature. Their other credits include “Rehab for Terrorists,” “Freakonomics: The Movie” and the award-winning “The Boys of Baraka.”