A Quiet Inquisition, which opens in London this week as part of the Human Rights Film Festival, is a must-see for anyone who believes that abortion should be criminalised. For the rest of us it confirms what we already know. Where abortion is a crime, women and doctors risk jail time, and women are injured and die. We know it, but it bears repeating, because there are still those who aim to eradicate all legal abortion.
Yet these people are rarely willing to take responsibility for the devastating outcomes that are the logical endpoint of their beliefs and campaigns. When challenged about this, anti-abortion activists will obfuscate: they will mumble and mutter about how this isn't about jailing women, this is about protecting women from the horrors of abortion. When challenged about the women who have already died, they will point to how many more 'unborn children' have died. In fact there is an extraordinary cognitive dissonance between the desire of some to outlaw abortion and a distaste for acknowledging the consequences of criminalisation, highlighted in this recent study from Brazil.
How often do those who oppose abortion stand up and really acknowledge the full meaning of their own beliefs? How often do you hear them say:
'Yes I think it's acceptable for 47,000 women a year to die as a result of complications from unsafe abortion'
'Yes I think it's ok for women to go to prison for having an abortion or even following a miscarriage or stillbirth'
'Yes I think it's ok for doctors to go to prison for providing abortion and for trying to save women's lives following miscarriage or stillbirth.'
'Yes I think it's fair that wealthy women will probably be able to have a safe abortion wherever they live, and poor women won't.'
'Yes I think it's reasonable for women to have to travel to another country to have an abortion'
'Yes I think women should be allowed to die to save the fetus that is inside them, (even when the fetus is itself dying)'
'Yes I think it's ok to carry out an extremely premature delivery by caesarean section in order to remove a fetus from a pregnant woman who is suicidal having been refused an abortion.'
These are the real results of the prohibitive abortion laws that we see in parts of Latin America, and the extremely restrictive abortion laws that we see around the world and close to home in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
In A Quiet Inquisition obstetrician and gynaecologist Carla Cerrato, exposes the intolerable situation of doctors who are expected to withold life-saving treatment even when women - sometimes just girls - are dying in front of them because of the brutal abortion prohibition that resulted from a faustian pact between former revolutionary, Daniel Ortega, and the Catholic Church. Priya Shetty, reviewing the film in The Lancet, observes that the film makers could have made a 'ferocious advocacy' piece, but they didn't need to: 'reality is far uglier than any narrative that the film-makers could have invented'.
Whether we are talking about the ugly reality for women in Nicaragua, the preventable death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland, the imprisonment of Las 17 in El Salvador, the recent arrest of a woman in Chile, the painful journey of women travelling from Ireland and Northern Ireland every day, these stories shame all those who oppose safe legal abortion. I invite all of them to watch A Quiet Inquisition. This is a story they'd like to see replicated around the world. It's time they own it!