WASHINGTON – "22 Weeks" has the images and sound effects of a horror flick, but it isn't one. Instead, it's based on a true account of a woman who sought a late-term abortion but found herself living a nightmare.
In the 25-minute featurette, Angela, played by Natalie Wenninger, wakes up in her motel room covered in blood. She rushes to the clinic where she had been injected with a needle the day before to abort her baby 22 weeks into her pregnancy. She's bleeding profusely and is having contractions but is left alone in a dirty room at the clinic. Something is wrong.
Earlier in the film, we find a much different Angela at the EPOC Clinic in Orlando, Fla., as she is midway through the second trimester of her pregnancy. There, Angela is presented with two options: the suction method or an injection to the baby's heart.
She chooses the latter, convinced by employees that the procedure will not cause the baby any pain. She would simply have a stillborn birth the following day. To her, the suction method is a monstrous act.
After the procedure, she is met by a group of pro-life advocates outside the clinic. When one Christian tries to convince her to save the baby, Angela replies, "God was never raped."
While there a several uncomfortable moments when Angela experiences some complications, the shocking scene near the end comes as she has given birth to her baby on a toilet.
"He's alive!" Angela screams, shocked that the baby was not dead like the employees had assured he would be when born.
But the mother is even more horrified when the employees, who respond slowly to her cries, deny the baby is living, do not help her and lock her in the bathroom.
"He's alive and they won't help me!" Angela tells her friend on the phone. "I don't want this anymore ... I made a mistake! Call 911!"
As Angela waits for help, she holds the baby close to her, telling her son, "I'm so sorry" and "I love you so much," and wishing she had another chance.
When the ambulance arrives at the clinic, the employees try to turn them away, insisting that no one placed a 911 call.
"22 Weeks" is based on an article by World Net Daily, which published the true testimonies of the real mother, Angele, in 2005. And while what was depicted in the film was horrifying enough, Angele said what actually happened was even worse.
The baby, whom Angele had named Rowan, died 10 minutes after the 911 call by her friend due to negligence. The doctor, Jim Perper, who administered the injection, was not prosecuted.
Angele, who has not released her last name, attended the free screening of the film at Union Station's Phoenix Theaters in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday as another way of going public with her experience.
The film, which was completed in August 2008, has only been shown in around seven cities in the United States as well as Puerto Rico, where producer Ángel Manuel Soto is from. This was his first film.
Soto, who has partnered with pro-life organizations BornAliveTruth.org and Operation Rescue to promote the film, hopes awareness of the movie and the disturbing practices at abortion clinics will spread by word of mouth.
"This is really happening ... [even] this very day despite the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act," said Jill Stanek of BornAliveTruth.org at the Washington screening.
With limited resources and funding, Soto is largely relying on viewers to get the word out and show the film, which was available for DVD purchase at the screenings. Requests for screenings can also be made at the film's website 22weeksthemovie.com.
After being moved to tears, viewers at the Washington screening expressed their willingness to help. One viewer, who said she had an abortion, told Soto she would show the film to her church of 20,000 members. Another encouraged Soto to get the film in the hands of President Barack Obama, who is pro-choice.
"Since he (Obama)'s advocating abortion, he should watch it," noted the viewer, who said she will write a letter to the president.
Obama and his pro-abortion decisions were indirectly mentioned in a scene in "22 Weeks," but Stanek, whose organization had publicized last year Obama's pro-abortion record, said the message of the film is not a political one.