Who would have thought that two brilliant Al Jazeera women journalists would make the best new TV program on the politics of abortion out there. And who would guess that they pulled this off on the cusp of our presidential political conventions when the "issue" is at a boiling point. They have, they did.
As one of the folks in on the beginnings of the anti-abortion movement in the 1970s, on the far right "pro-life" side who then changed his mind to pro-choice, I've been in, around and part of the abortion wars. I'm not happy about this let alone proud. My late father Francis Schaeffer (along with our friend Dr. C. Everett Koop, who later became Reagan's Surgeon General) is credited by most evangelicals as the "father" of the evangelical wing of the anti-abortion crusade. I produced a film series and book with them that kicked off our culture wars with a vengeance. Having changed my mind, believe me when I say that I understand the passions of this movement very personally. There's nothing like hate mail - from both "sides" - to concentrate the mind.
So how ironic is it that the best new piece of journalism and documentary film making I've seen about this issue is "The Abortion War. " It's part of Al Jazeera English "Fault Lines" series. I say ironic because it turns out that Al Jazeera (no kidding) understands the dynamics of this very American story better than any American news organization that's reported on the story, at least that I'm aware of.
I've written about what a professional news organization AJ before in terms of world news. But I've never seen anything they've done that is on a subject I know so innately. This program is fairer, more complete or more compassionate than anything I've seen. The two women who are responsible for this amazing film - correspondent: Zeina Awad, and producer Laila Al-Arian -- have produced a film that is so timely it's scary. Awad moved to the US 2 years ago after spending 4 years covering some of the biggest stories in the Middle East and Africa and this film is partly her fresh take on a long and polarizing American issue. The U.S.-born Al-Arian co-authored a book
(Collateral Damage: America's War Against Iraqi Civilians with Chris Hedges) based on interviews with dozens of U.S. soldiers about war crimes against civilians in Iraq.
Months ago when they were running all over America shooting the movie they could not have known what Rep. Akin would say about rape and the media explosion this caused. And they could not have known that the Republican Party would elevate abortion, and their war on access to contraception to the center piece of a presidential race everyone else hoped was going to be about the economy.
But good journalism is about a gut instinct that leads you to being in the right place at the right time. Al Jazeera owes these two amazing women journalists a very big thank you for putting them on the cutting edge of a huge story.
The film takes us inside the two "enemy camps" and treats side each with dignity. And it does this on the cusp of the Republican and Democratic Party conventions! From women talking about their abortions, to doctors and nurses performing them, to the protesters on the street, to young women fighting on both sides of the "issue," Awad and Al-Arian bring us a poignant look at what the abortion issue has become: a political stalemate of heartbreak, not to mention anger. And in this stalemate women are losing their rights as access to abortion and contraception are being systematically chipped away.
"The Abortion Wars" is journalism as it was meant to be. And what a shame that because of the anti-Arab prejudices in North America that one of the world's finest news outlets is confined to online viewers here in the USA while the rest of the world watches Al Jazeera on TV and cable. But never mind that censorship: watch this show if you want to know what the abortion wars are really about and what the stakes are in this "war."
Here are the online show times:
Tuesday, August 28, 6:30PM ET -- Wednesday, August 29, 5:30AM ET -- Thursday, August 30, 11: 30PM ET -- Friday, August 31, 12:30PM ET -- Saturday, September 1 6:30PM ET -- Sunday, September 2, 5: 30AM ET -- Monday, September 3, 11: 30PM -- Tuesday, September 4, 12:30PM ET.
And here's the link:
Or watch on Youtube
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. He is author of Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics--and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway and his forthcoming novel is "Baptism By Sand."