On Hostile Ground

  • 2001
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary

Released theatrically a week after the sniper accused of murdering Dr. Barnett Slepian in his home was arrested, this grim but moving documentary about healthcare workers who provide abortions could not be more timely. While it was being made, Slepian's death was only the latest in a series of attacks, but it seemed to mark a public turning point: What had...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Released theatrically a week after the sniper accused of murdering Dr. Barnett Slepian in his home was arrested, this grim but moving documentary about healthcare workers who provide abortions could not be more timely. While it was being made, Slepian's death was only the latest in a series of attacks, but it seemed to mark a public turning point: What had been perceived as a battle of wills and words over the landmark Roe v. Wade decision now looked like an actual battle — complete with guns and casualties. Filmmakers Liz Mermin and Jenny Raskin interview three abortion providers, along with their friends, families and staffs, focusing on the ways such attacks have affected their lives and their attitudes towards what they do. Seventy-six-year-old Dr. Richard Stuntz is a soft-spoken OB-GYN from Baltimore, Md., who, three days a week, drives all the way to Alabama to perform abortions. Dr. Stuntz, who's dedicated to providing women with a safe, accessible alternative to pregnancy, fears sniper attacks and wears a bulletproof vest. Susan Cahill is a Montana physician's assistant who became the focus of a legal battle over whether or not P.A.C.s should be allowed to perform abortions. In 1993, her office was destroyed in a firebombing. Dr. Morris Wortman, an outspoken gynecologist from Rochester, N.Y., sees Dr. Slepian's death as a turning point in his life. The son of Holocaust survivors, Dr. Wortman now thinks of himself as an abortion provider above all else, and is prepared to meet the enemy head on. The statistics cited in the film are shocking — in a country were abortion is legal, only 14% of all U.S. counties have an abortion provider — but its images are even more so: Clinics gutted by fire, armed guards sitting at reception desks, wounded physicians carried into awaiting ambulances. Regardless of where you stand on the abortion issue (and it must be stressed that the vast majority of anti-abortion advocates deplore the use of any kind of violence), this illuminating and ultimately inspirational film is well worth your time. It offers three true profiles in courage, and a uniquely human perspective on one of the most contentious social issues of our time.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Released theatrically a week after the sniper accused of murdering Dr. Barnett Slepian in his home was arrested, this grim but moving documentary about healthcare workers who provide abortions could not be more timely. While it was being made, Slepian's de… (more)

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