Many pro-life advocates are speaking out against HBO's new documentary on abortion in which viewers are shown one clinic's procedure room where they hear the killing of an unborn baby during an early first-trimester abortion.
"When the film ended, I was disturbed, not just because I had spent 90 minutes grappling with the horrifying reality of abortion, but because I was thoroughly disoriented," wrote Addie Mena for the Jesuit "America" magazine on Tuesday.
"'Abortion: Stories Women Tell' fails as a documentary, and it owes the women that it portrays much more thought, consideration and coherence," she added.
HBO claims the film's director, Trazy Droz Tragos, sheds "new light on the contentious issue," by showing how women with unplanned pregnancies struggle with the decisions they face, and how activists on both sides of the fence hope to sway their decisions.
Students for Life of America's Western Director Reagan (Nielsen) Barklage told MR Culture on Monday that the documentary is far from balanced, however, and that it mostly sides with the pro-choice position.
Barklage said the producers "betrayed my trust" by promising a fair representation of the two sides of the issue, but failed to deliver on that.
Some of the scenes were very graphic, Barklage added, noting that one segment included audio from a procedure room at an abortion clinic where viewers could hear the killing of an unborn baby during a first-trimester abortion.
"The sound of that child's death, was gut-wrenching," Barklage said.
"It was inconsiderate and cruel to not only include the sound of the suction machine but also show the blood remaining on the machine afterwards."
She argued that the scene was insensitive to the "innocent preborn child," and "to the many post-abortive women who continue to be haunted by that horrible sound of the suction."
"Some women can no longer go to the dentist because the sound of the cleaning machine reminds them of the suction machine from their abortion," Barklage said.
"Other women can't even turn on their vacuum because it reminds them of their abortion years ago."
HBO says on its website that it sought to portray "heartbreaking and tender" stories, along with others that are "bleak and frightening." The network describes how some of the women display "strength — to overcome and persevere through complicated and unexpected circumstances."
Writing for "America," Mena argued that Tragos tries to fit in too many stories on a limited runtime, however, which glosses over the reality many of the women face, and instead the subjects are categorized by the director's "political agenda."
"There is a profound story to be told here about the many women who are genuinely economically unfree to be open to life," Mena said, speaking about one woman's story featured in the documentary. But in many of the other cases presented, the documentary doesn't show the full context and skips from one story to the next, she added.
The HBO film also criticizes some pro-life legislative victories as of late, such as Missouri's 72-hour waiting period for those seeking an abortion.
"Tragos failed her subjects in the same way that we as a society have failed: We, too, owe the women and the unborn victims who come face to face with abortion much more thought, consideration and support than they receive now," Mena added.