A new documentary by the Oscar-nominated directors of Jesus Camp offers a rare inside look at the pitched battle over abortion rights that’s being waged not just in Congress and the courts, but on the street corners of small-town America — in particular, one street corner where an abortion clinic and an anti-abortion pregnancy care center sit across the street from each other. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We go now to an issue that’s long been a third rail of American politics: abortion. A new documentary by the Oscar-nominated directors of Jesus Camp offers a rare inside look at the pitched battle over abortion rights that’s being waged not just in Congress and the courts, but on the street corners of small-town America — well, one street corner, in particular, where an abortion clinic and an anti-abortion pregnancy care center sit across the street from each other. The film is called 12th & Delaware. Its television debut is on HBO tonight.
I spoke to the co-directors of the film, Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, here in New York last week.
AMY GOODMAN: Where is 12th and Delaware? Heidi?
HEIDI EWING: Well, someone would say that 12th and Delaware is on every street corner in America, but we’ll get to that later. Twelfth and Delaware, in our film, takes place in the town of Fort Pierce, Florida, not too far from Palm Beach. And on the corner of 12th and Delaware, there is an abortion clinic on one side of the street, and right across the street from that abortion clinic is what is known as a crisis pregnancy center, which is a pro-life pregnancy center that sometimes is actually confused with the abortion clinic across the street. And the aim of this crisis pregnancy center is to persuade women who are considering an abortion to continue with their pregnancy.
AMY GOODMAN: How did, Rachel, you decide to do this film?
RACHEL GRADY: Well, we made another film called Jesus Camp, and in Jesus Camp one of our characters’ parents worked in a crisis pregnancy center. And Heidi and I weren’t familiar with these pro-life centers prior to that film. And we actually were filming a scene inside of one and almost had the same experience as I think some of the women do that go in there. We weren’t quite sure what was going on. We were a little confused, because we always thought, you know, that this evangelical population we were focusing on were pro-life. And I was like, "Is this an abortion clinic? This is very confusing." And then, kind of dawned on us what was actually happening. There’s ultrasound machines and, you know, kind of graphic photographs everywhere.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, it’s clear they want to continue that confusion. Let’s go to a scene in 12th & Delaware where Anne, who runs the Pregnancy Care Center, is training others about how to respond when someone phones in.
ANNE LOTIERZO: When she calls, and she says, "Do you do abortions?" I say, "Are you calling for yourself, or are you calling for your friend?" She says, "I’m calling for myself." I say, "Well, when did you have a pregnancy test?" And we engage in conversation, because if she calls and says, "Do you do abortions?" and I say, "No" — click.
AMY GOODMAN: There you have Anne of the Pregnancy Care Center. Rachel, what are the laws here? And who is Anne? Is she a nurse? Is she a doctor?
RACHEL GRADY: No, she is just an activist, a pro-life activist that, you know, has dedicated her life to stopping women from having an abortion, basically. And she’s not a nurse. She’s not — you know, she doesn’t have any degrees.
AMY GOODMAN: And are there laws here about how, quote, "Pregnancy Care Center" represents itself?
RACHEL GRADY: There are, and, you know, they’ve around since Roe v. Wade. So, since they’ve been around for forty years or so, they’ve tweaked the laws. There’s been lawsuits over the years about what they can and cannot do. And they sort of take it right up to the line. So there’s no laws, per se, that are being broken. I think people could argue that there’s moral and ethical lines that are crossed, but not laws necessarily.
AMY GOODMAN: And Heidi, if you say, "I want an abortion. Do you provide them?" what do they say?
HEIDI EWING: If the question is asked directly, they say, "We do not provide abortions here."
AMY GOODMAN: "Where could I get one?" — if you said that?
HEIDI EWING: They will absolutely not tell any woman that the abortion clinic is across the street where they can get an abortion. They will not recommend birth control of any type. They do not dispense condoms. They will give no assistance whatsoever in a woman who’s, A, seeking an abortion or, B, inquiring about contraception.
I think it’s interesting about the legislation that you mention, there are some interesting cases that have come up over the last year, especially in Baltimore, where it was being demanded that the crisis pregnancy centers in Baltimore post a sign on their door or on the window that says, "We do not provide abortions here." Well, they did not want to do that, and they fought this. And so, the case — and the case has come down, that they are going to be required to say, you know, physically on the door that "We do not provide abortions here." But I think the fact that they did not want to provide that information is very, very telling.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go across the street to the women’s health clinic that does provide abortion. This is Candace.
CANDACE DYE: They are relentless. They just — they never stop. I mean, they don’t have a life. Evidently, they don’t have a life. I mean, every once in a while, we think about, ah, we can go do a protest on their corner of the street, but we don’t have time. We’re too busy raising grandkids and kids and working and making a living and living our lives. We’re not obsessed with them.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Candace Dye, who heads up the women’s medical center in Fort Pierce, Florida, across the street from the Pregnancy Care Center, where you saw Anne Lotierzo. Heidi Ewing, how does this women’s health clinic that provides abortion function?
HEIDI EWING: It’s very, very difficult for them to function. It’s a privately owned abortion clinic. It’s not a Planned Parenthood, clearly. It’s a family-run business, actually. You know, they endure sort of round-the-clock protesters.
AMY GOODMAN: You see them always looking out the window at the protesters.
HEIDI EWING: They’re always looking out the window. They’re always wondering what’s coming around the corner. They’re always checking the video cameras and the monitors. There’s definitely a sense of fear. There is an element of danger to run an abortion clinic, for the doctor, for the owners, for everyone involved. They’re aware of that. And there’s absolutely been a chilling effect over the years with Tiller being murdered recently, of course. So you do have a palpable sense of tension, I would say.
AMY GOODMAN: Was he murdered during the time you were making this or before?
HEIDI EWING: He was murdered during the production of this film, actually. It’s referred to in the film. And, of course, that really put a pall over the entire corner. And, you know, he was murdered in church, and people were very shocked by the audacity with which he was murdered. And, you know, one of the things that Candace talked about, who owns the abortion clinic, is that they’re worried about not being able to find any doctors to do the procedure anymore. They’re not as worried about it becoming illegal or the legislation, which is troubling to them, of course, but they’re more worried about the sort of chilling effect. Or, who’s going to want to perform abortions in the future? Most of the doctors that work there are in their fifties and sixties. Where is the next crop coming from? And she worries quite a bit about that.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, co-directors of this remarkable film called 12th & Delaware, a corner in Fort Pierce, Florida, where there’s a Pregnancy Care Center on one side, and there is the Woman’s World Health Clinic on the other that provides abortion. Rachel, this issue of fear — you have a remarkable scene where you’re in the car with one of the anti-abortion protesters, a man, who’s going to track down where the doctors are picked up.
RACHEL GRADY: Mm-hmm, yes. That’s probably kind of the peak of tension and fear —- in the film, at least. He follows the doctor. The owners go and pick up and drop the doctor off in a faraway location not near the clinic.
AMY GOODMAN: At Wal-Mart?
RACHEL GRADY: At Wal-Mart. Very appropriate in America. And, you know, to provide protection and, you know, to give him some security. And he covers himself. The doctor actually wears a sheet over his head every time he pulls into the clinic and pulls out. And it’s this -—
AMY GOODMAN: And comes into the garage, and they close the garage door.
RACHEL GRADY: And comes into the garage and — exactly. And, you know, the protesters have gone — have figured out who many of the doctors are over the years, have gone to their homes, have gone to their churches, have gone to their other jobs and —-
HEIDI EWING: High school reunions.
RACHEL GRADY: —- high school reunions and, you know, protested and shown pictures of them and called them baby killers, etc. So, Candace and her husband Arnold, who run the clinic, try and protect them, because they don’t want to have to keep looking for doctors.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to another scene. It’s Anne Lotierzo, who runs the Pregnancy Care Center. She had just been advising a young couple, a woman who wanted to have an abortion, and she hoped she had reached her, but then she made a call to her afterwards. This is Anne Lotierzo.
ANNE LOTIERZO: Did you make any progress towards making a decision, or — how are you? Yeah? And? Yeah. Did you go through with it already? Yeah. Well, yeah, OK. She aborted.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Anne Lotierzo, the head of the Pregnancy Care Center. Heidi Ewing, how did you get this access inside both clinics? Well, you can’t call this one a clinic, because they don’t provide medical services, but...
HEIDI EWING: Well, getting access inside a crisis pregnancy center turned out to be difficult. It took many, many months, many phone calls. I guess maybe it’s not surprising to you that most pregnancy care centers and CPCs were unwilling and uninterested in having — being exposed in the — publicly. So, in terms of Anne and why she let us make the film, I think that it was a decision that she — that she rolled the dice. They decided to roll the dice. In their mind, abortion is so evil that even if we told 30 percent of the truth, then the audience would walk away feeling that abortion is the wrong thing. She believes that to be true. She believes it’s murder. So she believed that a story inside a crisis pregnancy center would reveal that truth, what she considers the truth. And I believe that’s why — that’s why they let us in.
AMY GOODMAN: And what about the actual women’s health clinic?
HEIDI EWING: Well, there was a lot of trepidation on the part of the abortion clinic to allow us inside, not because they had anything to hide necessarily, but because they’re — again, they’ve lived for twenty years with a lot of tension and problems with their neighbors, and so of course the instinct was to sort of lay low. I believe that Candace decided to let us in because she feels that she’s been so maligned and, in some ways, tortured by the protesters and by her neighbors for so many years that in some way maybe this would vindicate her in some way.
AMY GOODMAN: The reaction of the two centers to this film —-
HEIDI EWING: Mm-hmm.
AMY GOODMAN: —- of Anne Lotierzo, who runs the Pregnancy Care Center, of Candace Dye, who runs the Woman’s World Health Clinic?
HEIDI EWING: Mm-hmm. Well, I think that Candace feels a bit vindicated, in a way, and also — Candace runs the abortion clinic. And, well, first of all, I think they were both somewhat curious about what happened in the other place. Even though they’ve been across the street from each another for almost twenty years, neither one had been inside the other place. And so, I think it was interesting for them to see what happened.
AMY GOODMAN: Have they ever met?
HEIDI EWING: They have met. They have met. They had a meal once. And I would have liked to be a fly on the wall for that. But they just had that one interaction. And then there’s been a lot of lawsuits, so they’ve seen each other in court, etc., not — they see each other every day, but they are not friends at all. And I think Anne has mixed feelings about it. She doesn’t have any — she hasn’t had any problems with the actual content of the film, as far as accuracy, or said anything was untrue or slanted. But she has such a passion against the abortion clinic and abortion, I think it’s just — it’s hard for her to watch anything that has to do with them, really.
AMY GOODMAN: What was the response to this film?
RACHEL GRADY: Well, so far we’ve shown it at festivals in the United States so far, and it’s a very interesting experience to watch it with audiences. I think, you know, abortion is definitely the third rail of American politics. It is the most divisive issue, I think, that we have out here right now, despite all the other problems we have. And audiences are — get queasy, they are uncomfortable, they get angry. It’s been a fraught experience showing the film so far.
AMY GOODMAN: Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, filmmakers of 12th & Delaware. Their previous film was Jesus Camp. 12th & Delaware is making its television debut on HBO tonight at 9:00 Eastern. An interesting postscript: very few news outlets have been willing to interview them about this film, 12th & Delaware. Contrast that with Jesus Camp, that got blanket coverage. Well, you decide for yourself. Watch HBO tonight at 9:00 Eastern.