“October Baby,” and the Insidious Propaganda Which Forgets the Quiet Awe of God

Image courtesy of imdb.com

The anti-choice film “October Baby” was inspired by the true story of a young woman who, in late adolescence, discovers that her health issues are related to a late and failed abortion. (The woman whose story is credited with inspiring the film,  Gianna Jessen, is now an anti-choice activist.) And like all individual true stories, this represents a slice of reality.

One can be moved by the tears of the heroine who fights against health problems and does not know where she is in her own life. When the heroine says “life is a lie,” that could affect anyone. Of course, this story can also touch people because anyone going through difficult times, whatever they may be, in life may enter into an identification process with the heroine. This could even be a catharsis for some. But pay very close attention to the intentions of the filmmakers.

The media and the political agenda

Though “October Baby” arrives at a moment when reproductive rights and women’s sexual health are again part of a robust national debate, its makers say they weren’t acting with a political agenda. Yet the producers of “October Baby” have assigned 10% of the profits of the movie to the Every Life is Beautiful Fund, which will distribute funds to frontline organizations helping women facing crisis pregnancies; life-affirming adoption agencies; and those caring for orphans.

Given the links to these groups, the abortion rights organization NARAL Pro-Choice America contends that the film is tied to an extreme anti-abortion message. NARAL spokesman Ted Miller has said that they were “concerned that some proceeds from this film could be going to organizations that may intentionally mislead women about their health-care options.” The film’s credits include a list of anti-abortion web sites, some in the guise of therapeutic resources, NARAL said.

“October Baby” is obviously linked ideologically, religiously and financially to the anti-choice universe. But it is also the topic of an “artistic subjectivity”: “I am a Christian and I make films. They are going to represent the values I have in the world,” co-director Jon Erwin has said. One of the lead actors, John Schneider, has spoken openly about his “pro-life” and creationist beliefs. And a number of reviews push the “pro-life” message. But … what does the film say about the meaning of life?

What does God have to do with all of that?

This anti-choice film and the anti-choice movement, broadly speaking, are the flagship of a way to see a religion. It might be wiser to go further in the reflection by pointing out the question of the place of God in the destiny of the heroine, or in the one of her biological mother, for example. But it’s an endless debate, as is the quest of determining, in the life of a human being, the share of free will and the share of God’s will: it is insoluble.

A priest in the film tries to lead the heroine to the way of forgiveness. This may be too, as in any dramatic story, a quest for love and compassion. Like all lives should be, after all.

So, basically the question is: “What is life?” Of course, the film holds a very important spiritual message. But also — and no offense to the makers of this anti-choice film — what we can learn from their film is that life is a series of choices. Life is the power to choose, but for humans that stops here. Even when a woman decides by religious convictions to not abort, she is making a choice. And it is by definition, though being “pro-life,” being pro-choice. And being pro-choice is being pro-life, because to live is to choose or vice versa. Actually, choice could be considered a way to achieve the plan that God has for every person on Earth. If one is not a believer one can say, “it’s by chance” or “it is just bad luck”… But believer or not, we know that something will always escape from us.

One of the greatest misfortunes of humanity is that trust and humility that God places in each of us as blessings to build a relationship with Him, are too often forgotten or scorned. “I delight to do your will, my God. Yes, your law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:8

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this piece Manis! I have been really curious about this movie and really glad that you took the time to learn and write about it.

    It is really troubling and aggravating that the filmmakers would try to claim there is no political agenda to the film, particularly given their use of the profits. I do hope this gets exposed, and also that the film fails to be a success!

  2. Thanks for your comment Janice! You are welcome. It is great that FFC gave me the opportunity to expose such an opinion. About the topics in relation to this film, I could deal with other matters (definition of an ‘abortion survivor’, or the financial problems faced by women to access an early abortion…) But, given this film bet on emotions and religion I dealt with that (and I tried to make understand that unfairness perpetrated ‘in the name of’ God is unsafe). Unfortunately, this is the kind of stories which has been strikingly successful with many people if only because they don’t (want to) see the political agenda to the film.

    • Sophia Paulekas says:

      The most telling moment of the film is when the police officer tells the heroine “hate the crime, not the criminal.” Throughout the film, the birth mother is depicted as a heartless “career” woman. She is painted as evil because she made the decision to have an abortion. This film shamelessly pushes a political agenda using a Christian ideology to legitimize the anti-choice position and the dominance and control over a woman’s body that this position implies.

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