Few topics in contemporary society are as divisive as abortion.
“Hush,” a documentary that debuted Oct. 15 at the Los Angeles Femme International Film Festival, is the brainchild of a Canadian duo that set out to discover for themselves how abortion impacts women. In the process, they found things are not always what they seem.
From the outset, director Punam Kumar Gill felt that questioning abortion was betraying her feminist identity. The more she examined the topic, however, she discovered that politics often play a role in what women are told about the abortion procedure.
“It’s true, the long-term health risks associated with abortion are generally promoted by those who want abortion gone,” Gill said. “Equally disturbing are those who deny that any long-term risks exist, which is currently the stance of all the major medical organizations.”
Joses Martin, producer, said those who viewed the documentary at the L.A. film festival ranged from “liberal feminists to hardcore pro-life activists” to everyone in between. The film, he said, was well received.
“We found both with this and the test screenings that we’ve done that it opens up conversation about the topic of abortion as a women’s health subject across political boundaries where people have not been able to talk to each other,” Martin said.
Acknowledging that “Gill came from a more pro-choice view of things and I came from a more pro-life view of things,” Martin noted that the opposing viewpoints helped them dig for the truth.
“It caused us to look at it in an unbiased way and keep each other in check the whole time. That was the most powerful thing about it because it’s such a touchy, fine-line, tightrope walk that was accomplished here. I think that was really the only way it could be done,” Martin said.
The team took six months, traveling across North America and even to London to interview doctors, scientists, researchers, lawyers and government officials on both sides of the issue, as well as women who have experienced abortion.
It was no small feat. Potential interviewees wondered what the filmmakers’ agenda was or worried there might be a backlash.
“The trouble was that in general a lot of people just didn’t want to speak to us,” Martin said. “It was too political to talk about, even for those researchers who have done research on the subject, they often didn’t really want to be in the public eye.”
Nevertheless, they were able to film some powerful vignettes and say the film opens up dialogue on the topic of how abortion affects women.
“Basically what we found was a lot of shocking information,” Martin said. “It’s not as simple as people make it out to be. I wouldn’t even say, ‘Does abortion cause breast cancer, yes or no?’ It’s somewhere in between. And it’s somewhere in between because it’s a complex subject.
“The point is, here’s the information. Here’s what you should know and hopefully on one hand you can make the best possible reproductive decision for you, and on the other hand, if women have had an abortion, at least they can know what the potential risks are for them as individuals.”
As far as the psychological effects of abortion, Martin said the team found inconsistencies between what psychologists’ organizations often maintain and the experience of many women. Still, it’s not cut and dry. Not every woman says she was traumatized or became suicidal following an abortion.
“It really is a question of why it is affecting some women and what can we do to better serve women who might be in high risk categories for those psychological effects,” Martin said. For many, regret seems to be a common factor in predicting emotional scars.“A lot of times what we found was the importance of pre-counseling, of giving women a chance to think about the decision ahead of time, to be given all the options,” Martin said.
Gill and Martin have applied to numerous other film festivals in order to show “Hush” and are aiming for international distribution sometime in 2016.
Prior to “Hush,” Gill acted as writer, director and producer in seven documentaries. She’s also the television host of two food and wine shows. Martin is an independent filmmaker, musician and disc jockey.
To view the film’s trailer, visit hushfilm.com.