A Harrowing Look at Abortion in Russia.
After viewing Killing Girls, an 80 minute documentary on abortion in Russia that follows the pregnancy experiences of 3 young women, one comes away with the sense that they have just witnessed an important film indeed. Director David Kinsella and the rest of his crew display obvious talent for film-making, presenting a dark subject – abortion – in a very intense an accurate way.
A whole host of adjectives comes to mind when trying to describe the mood of the film, including haunting, unsettling, disturbing, even shocking, but I do suspect it will elicit different feelings from different viewers, quite possibly disgust and revulsion included. Killing Girls contains much disturbing imagery and nudity, likely to turn off a sizeable segment of the viewing population. The one undeniable fact, however, is that this is a quality, even unique, production that has the potential to become a sort of underground, or cult, classic.
The film is presented entirely in black and white, save for the iris of the model who garnishes the poster and the introduction to the several chapters of the film (I assume she is one of the women followed in the movie). It very effectively alternates still imagery with video, bringing the viewer right into the halls and rooms of the monstrous abortuary in St. Petersburg, Russia and into the lives of the women who find themselves there. The suffering of the masses of women undergoing abortion – most of them late-term – are made excruciatingly real for the viewer with the assistance of timely, but not overly exaggerative, visual effects and music. To top it off, script writer Anna Sirota's narration throughout the film is nothing short of perfect.
The film purports to be neither “pro life” nor “pro choice,” and I would interpret this intention as largely achieved. However, considerable more time is allotted espousing the virtues of “safe sex” education as the cure for the abortion problem in Russia as opposed to promoting abstinence or chaste as a solution. Also, while the film shows many vivid images (one could argue too many) of women suffering through the abortion procedure, it fails to show a single clear shot of one of the many babies who have just been aborted. Claims of “balance” could have been much more easily justified had the smaller victims of abortion – the dead babies – been more thoroughly represented through images. Nonetheless, two or three brief and vague images of nurses holding aborted fetuses/babies (both terms are used) and disposing of them into medical bags are shown. In addition, the unborn are referred to as “live persons” on at least one occasion, and an abortionist does admit that what she is doing is in fact “legalized murder.”
A collegue asked me if Killing Girls is a “pro life” film. I responded yes, and no. While the movie does indeed convey the reality that abortion is a traumatic experience for women (and even abortionists) and a deadly one for their unborn children, it implies at the same time that it is a “necessary evil” in Russia – at least for now – and that things there would be much worse were it criminalized. It also advances the notion that abortion is saving children from lives of misery and women from lives of poverty.
Abortion has been legal and used as birth control in Russia for so long, it has become firmly entrenched in cultural norms, social mores, and in the everyday lives of its citizens. According to the film makers, 80% of Russian women have abortions, each having on average 2 to 10 during their lives. Some research shows that some Russian women have as many as 20 – 30 abortions in their lifetimes. A poor economy is one factor that keeps the abortion mills churning out dead children, a fact highlighted in the film.
So if you want to see the personal and social impact of abortion in one of the most heavily aborted nations in the world, you can either go there to try and meet the women and make your way into one of the asylum-like buildings they call “clinics,” or you can stay here and watch Killing Girls. It’s that well-done.