September 27, 2001

Cornell Cinema

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In the background of a shot in Liz Mermin and Jenny Raskin’s documentary, On Hostile Ground, a computer has a simple screen saver: “Party like its 1999.” Perhaps that is the only reminder of our modern society in this documentary that explores the regression and ultimate capitulation to violence of the abortion debate.

Made just before the turn of the millennium, Ground follows three doctors. An hour away from Ithaca in Rochester, New York, Dr. Morris Wortman protects himself with handguns and an elaborate home-security system just to feel safe enough to go to work or to sleep at night. Dr. Richard Stuntz, who is 76 and lives with his wife in Maryland, commutes to Alabama to perform abortions since there is such a shortage of willing doctors in that state. Susan Cahill, a physician assistant, fights a specific law called the ” Susan Cahill Law” that prohibits her and other physician assistants from providing abortions. These stories are presented not only because they are interesting, but also because they are, unfortunately, not unique. These doctors’ lives have been irrevocably altered by the violence perpetuated against them and their peers.

Watching On Hostile Ground in light of the attacks on September 11, one can’t help but think of this ongoing war between pro-choice and pro-life factions as one that displays a disgusting cycle of violence similar to that of terrorism. Violent protesters of abortion have succeeded in terrorizing doctors and have in effect limited women’s access to abortions. 25 years after Roe v. Wade declared abortions legal, 84% of counties in the United State

Archived article by Diana Lind