A Distant Thunder

A commentary by Fr. Frank Pavone


Fr. Frank Pavone


There are pro-life people who work in Hollywood, and two of them – Jonathan and Deborah Flora – have created a new tool to help the American people wrestle with abortion. “A Distant Thunder” is a powerful new 35-minute film that combines courtroom drama and supernatural warfare to help reveal the reality of what abortion does to a baby, and to the baby’s mother. The film helps the viewer wrestle with the issues and their implications, but is not presented in explicitly pro-life or religious themes. What it does, instead, is to help the viewer touch some of the aspects of the abortion issue that the other sides tries so desperately to cover up. In touching these painful and often scary facets of the issue, the viewer has the opportunity to let the light of conscience and compassion inform his or her conclusions.

The court case is about a partial-birth abortion that went wrong. The abortionist is on trial, not for having done a partial-birth abortion, but for what he did when the procedure went awry. One of the key witnesses is the nurse who witnessed the abortion. She testifies to how the procedure takes place, and to what went wrong this particular time. Her testimony brings to mind a number of real events related to abortion in the past ten years, and also reveals the striking contradiction between the care we give to the born and the brutality abortion allows to the pre-born. “What difference does three inches make?” is the question in the film and in reality. How can it be that when the baby’s head is in the birth canal we can kill her, but if it is pulled three inches farther, we can’t? The cognitive dissonance created by this absurd state of abortion policy is accented by reference to the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which recognizes the unborn child as a victim when, in the commission of a federal crime, a pregnant woman is injured or killed. How can the same child, if killed in a federal crime, be a victim, but if killed by an abortionist, be no more significant than medical waste? Common sense tells us that it’s the same child.

The nurse’s eyewitness testimony reveals to the jury the incredible details of a partial-birth abortion: the abortionist delivers the baby in a breach position, all but the head, and then creates an opening in the back of the neck with scissors. Then, inserting a catheter, he suctions out the contents of the skull. This description of the procedure reflects that contained in the medical paper issued by Dr. Martin Haskell in 1992 at a Risk Management Seminar of the National Abortion Federation. In the film, the reaction of the jury to these details is predictable. They are disgusted and horrified, as are the American people in general when they hear about this procedure. The reaction of the defense attorney is also predictable. He objects that it is unnecessary to relate these graphic details in the courtroom. This brings to mind a scene from “Judgment at Nuremburg” when, after a film is shown in the courtroom of the indisputable horror of the Holocaust, the defense argues that it is inappropriate to show such graphic imagery in the court. Similar objections were made in the halls of the US Congress when the diagrams of partial-birth abortion were shown during the debates about whether to ban it.

But in fact, we cannot honestly wrestle with abortion until we face what it is and what it does. A Distant Thunder assists us to do precisely that.

Just as significant as what occurs in the courtroom is what occurs in the prosecutor’s office, and in her personal life outside the office. She is given numerous and perplexing indications that this is no ordinary case, and that it involves her in a far deeper way than she can realize. She wrestles with nightmares and intrusions of the supernatural that give the viewer a clue to the surprise ending of the story. The struggles of this prosecutor (played by Deborah Flora) represent the struggles of each one of us regarding abortion. It is an issue that speaks to us about our own life and death, our own family and relationships, our successes and failures, our God and our demons, our responsibilities and our limitations. When the prosecutor is given the case and she expresses doubt about whether she should take it, her mentor says, “This case has your name written all over it.” Indeed, abortion has the name of each of us written all over it, because the destiny of the unborn in inextricably bound up with the destiny of the born. The extent to which we no longer recognize the humanity of the child in the womb is the extent to which we have lost sight of our own.

The film also reveals the psychological storms that take place in the mind of someone who has an abortion. In the pro-life movement in our day, the presence of women who publicly declare, “I Regret My Abortion” and of the men who declare, “I Regret Lost Fatherhood,” has become a powerful dimension of the public debate. The testimonies of these parents of aborted children bring abortion out of the realm of slogans, abstractions, and rationalizations, and leave the rest of us convinced that it is about as benign as an earthquake or a tsunami – or perhaps a distant thunder that has come too close for comfort.

Without a doubt, this film will become one of the most powerful tools to make people think and wrestle with the abortion issue, and will challenge them to do something about it.

Click here to order "A Distant Thunder."