Beyond the Politics of Life and Choice: A New Conversation About Abortion


For the first time in the three decades since it became law, Roe v. Wade might be overturned by the Supreme Court. While politicians exploit the abortion issue to energize their “base,” other people of all persuasions wrestle with deeper questions and concerns. This documentary defuses the issue, changes the tone, and creates a space where both sides can explore ways of bridging the divide and moving forward together.

Duration : 60 min./two 30-min. segments, plus special features

Release Date : 2007

Discussion Guide available



“No one person holds the whole truth about anything. And listening to so many conversations of pro-choice and pro-life people, I came to really believe that [there is] tremendously important truth in both positions. And for the society really to become wise about this issue, none of this truth can be disregarded.”

Mary Jacksteit, Project Director The Search for Common Ground

In this time of polarized debate over “hot-button” political and cultural issues, it is important to look beyond partisan positions “for” and “against” to a broader spectrum of opinion where the arguments are complex, thoughtful, and deeply nuanced. This film deconstructs key threads of the abortion debate with the aim of fostering dialogue.

If, as someone says in the film, Roe v. Wade was the work of “nine men in black robes [who] decided what the law of the land was going to be,” then we, the people, owe it to ourselves to share our concerns and convictions with one another. Our collective well-being demands that we take up this challenge—not as a pretext for converting others to any particular viewpoint, but as an opportunity to heal our divisions and move forward together.

Partisan gridlock has left us divided and despairing on a multitude of issues, with opposing factions bent less on seeking solutions than on seizing control and evening the score. This documentary suggests a new vision and a new approach.

“Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.”

Jalalud’din Rumi 13th-century Persian poet

About this film:

Beyond the Politics of Life and Choice weaves together interviews with activists, legal experts, theologians, seminarians, college students, service providers, and women for whom the decision to terminate or not to terminate a pregnancy has been a formative event in their lives. The result is unique, and the speakers are compelling—wise, compassionate, and principled. They bring surprising insights to a subject fraught with tension, prejudice, shame, and fear:

• Who decides? • Roe v. Wade
• Sex • Young people
• Baby or not? • Contraception
• Shame • Social justice
• Murder or not? • Sexism


The special features on the DVD delve more deeply into related issues that could not be adequately covered in the film itself:

• Adoption • Religion and abortion
• Is common ground possible? • Women of color and reproductive justice
• A conversation with Sidney and Dan Callahan


The film concludes with a poignant conversation between Angie and Barbara, two longtime friends whose simultaneous pregnancies highlighted their opposing views on abortion. The special features include a conversation with Dan and Sidney Callahan, a married couple who likewise demonstrate the disparity and complexity of opinion on this subject. Both conversations remind us of our capacity to love and respect those who disagree with us.

Interviewees in this film include:

Mary Jacksteit, Project Director, Search for Common Ground Frederica Matthewes-Green, Author of Real Choices Rev. Carlton Veazey, President, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Minister and Peace Activist Dr. Todd Whitmore, Professor of Theology, Notre Dame University Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, Author and Peace Activist, Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA Dr. Daniel C. Maguire, Professor of Moral Theology & Ethics, Marquette University Dr. Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University Prof. Dorothy E. Roberts, Kirkland & Ellis Professor, Northwestern University Law School Teri Heger, Executive Director, Care Net Pregnancy Center, Frederick, MD Angela Bonavoglia, Journalist, Author of Good Catholic Girls Dr. James R. Kelly, Professor of Sociology, Fordham University Sr. Ivone Gebara, SND, Visiting Professor, Theology & Ethics, Union Theological Seminary Sidney Callahan, Ph.D., Psychologist, Theologian, Author Daniel Callahan, Ph.D., Bio-ethicist; Author; Senior Fellow, Harvard Medical School

How to use this film

Beyond the Politics of Life and Choice considers a number of overlapping questions at the heart of the abortion debate:

  • Is sex for procreation only? What about intimacy and commitment? What about sex education?
  • When does new life begin? Does the potential for personhood make a fetus a person now? What does openness to creation really mean in practice?
  • Should reverence for life include reverence for the complexity of life? Is “innocent life” not threatened by poverty, domestic violence, militarism, and war as well as by abortion? Do our theories of right and wrong address reality?
  • Will criminalizing abortion make it go away? Does abortion liberate women, or does it consign them to shame and grief? What are the rights and responsibilities of men with regard to unintended pregnancies?

Beyond the Politics of Life and Choice inspires compassionate listening and open-hearted discussion on these and other questions related to women’s studies, gender studies, psychology, sociology, ethics, political science, public health, social justice, communications, conflict resolution, reproductive justice, and contemporary social problems. The film is intended for teachers, libraries, faith communities, legislators, guidance counselors, activist groups, and community organizations—those in a position to educate, mediate, or frame public policy in the interest of the common good.

Specific suggestions for showing our films in your community can be found under Using Our Films. For additional information on issues related to abortion, we suggest the following sources, listed alphabetically by category:

Post-Abortion Support:

Post-Adoption Support

Pro-Choice Information: (Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice)

Pro-Life Information:

Women of Color and Reproductive Justice:

Additional information

Price Levels

Consumer/Home Video, Public Library/Secondary School, Public Performance/Screening License, Synogogue/Church/Mosque, University/College/College Library


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