“40” will screen at the John Paul II International Film Festival on Wednesday April 9th at 8PM.
Frank (JP2IFF Co-Director): There have been many films made about abortion, what makes “40” stand out above the others?
John Morales (Director, 40): 40 is truly an unprecedented and compelling documentary that presents abortion as the most important human and civil rights issue of our time. Unlike other pro-life films, 40 is not a religious film but one that highlights well-reasoned and secular arguments against abortion. 40 also investigates the aftermath of legalized abortion in America over the last 40 years since Roe V. Wade. The 40 film is a wakeup call for America that gives voice to both sides fairly and lets women speak for themselves through experience on the reasons for their firm convictions about abortion. 40 addresses some of the strongest arguments for the pro-choice position, and provides heartfelt testimonies from post abortive women and men. 40 captures the impact of abortion on women, men, families and society in an exquisite encounter with human dignity.
40 also features the youth as the generation that will end abortion with an inspirational look at the annual March for Life. Beautifully shot and with very high production values, it is a must see for all people, young and old. We believe that 40 is a film worthy of both the skeptical pro-choice viewer and the seasoned pro-life advocate. At the end of the day we want to save babies.
Frank: How many people did you interview in the process of the film and were there stories you felt were too personal to share?
John: We interviewed over 40 national pro-life leaders and many young people at the 2012 and 2013 March for Life in Washington, DC. There has never been a film on abortion with this many national leaders. There were no stories that I can think of that were too personal to share. In fact we wanted intimate up close and personal testimonies from everyone in the film.
This documentary showcases former abortionists, numerous post-abortive women, half a dozen former abortion workers, single mothers, several individuals conceived through rape, crisis pregnancy workers, adoptees and adoptive parents and pro-life leaders of many stripes.
The film is a virtual all-star team of national pro-life leaders with some of the biggest names in the movement like Lila Rose, the President of Live Action, Abby Johnson, Former Planned Parenthood Abortion Clinic Director and Founder of “And Then There Were None,” Rebecca Kiessling, Pro-life Speaker and Conceived in Rape, Jeanne Monahan, President of March for Life Education and Defense Fund, Dr. Day Gardner, President of the National Black Pro-Life Union, Ryan Bomberger, Founder of Radiance Foundation, Keith Mason, Co-founder of Personhood USA, Joe Scheidler, Founder of the Pro-Life Action League, David Bereit, National Director of 40 Days for Life, and many more.
Frank: The pro-life movement is often compared to the civil rights movement. How would you explain that in context of your film?
John: Without a doubt and by design, we intentionally produced a film that presents abortion as not merely a religious issue or a political issue but as the most important human and civil rights issue of our time. This issue affects all of humanity, because without the right to life, there are no other rights to talk about. Dr. Alveda King reminds us in the film of the words of her uncle Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who once said “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, we must all begin to agree that it is an unjust thing to take the life of a little baby in the womb.”
Frank: What does your film say about those who are pro-choice because of rape?
John: One of the most difficult issues to deal with is the issue that is always used to justify 100 percent of abortions, and that’s rape. We take on this very emotional issue head on. That’s why we have whole segment on rape and felt that it was very important that those like Ryan Bomberger, Rebecca Keissling, Pam Stenzel, Ashley Sigrest and others who were born as a result of rape or were victims of rape speak specifically to that issue. It’s very hard for a pro-choice person to ignore the heartfelt testimonies of women and men that have been affected by rape.
According to Rebecca Kissling who was conceived in rape and featured in 40, “There’s a lot more people in this country who are conceived in rape than people think. We are one percent of the population. According to the CDC, there’s over 32,000 rape-related pregnancies in the U.S. every year. And the majority of them are born – 25,000 to 27,000 are born every year. When you look at the birth rate of the United States, that is one percent.”
Ashley Sigrest, who was victim of rape as teenager says in 40, “And any woman who’s ever lost a child, whether it was through abortion, miscarriage, an accident, or a disease, your heart always longs for that baby. Abortion is not the answer to rape. Rape is not an excuse for an abortion. And I speak out because I want to protect those women who’ve been raped, to let them know, you are better than abortion. Your baby is worth more than abortion.”
Frank: What was your favorite part of making this film?
John: Without a doubt, traveling to our nation’s capital for the 40th March for Life was the most exciting and uplifting experience of producing 40. I came to see with my own eyes that the Pro-Life movement is bigger than ever. It’s younger than ever, better organized, more strategic in its thinking, more media savvy, and more relentless than ever. I was so encouraged by the reported 650,000 pro-lifers who were at the 2013 March for Life and the great majority of them were young people. These kids are passionate about life and they realize that one third of the youth doesn’t exist. This is the generation that wants to end abortion Fr. Rocky Hoffman, Executive Director of Relevant Radio says, said that “All high school and college students need to see this film, especially at Catholic high schools and colleges.”
Frank: What has the feedback been regarding the film from both pro-life and pro-choice believers?
John: The feedback from pro-lifers who have seen 40 in theatres, churches and schools in a number of parts of the country has been overwhelmingly positive. People of all ages are moved by the film and it seems that it touches people in many different ways. It’s hard to believe that it’s already been over three months since the world premiere of the 40 film at the Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge, IL on the vigil of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the unborn. The reception from the nearly 900 pro-lifers on hand that night was over the top, something that I’ll never forget. We received two thundering standing ovations after the movie that lasted three and half minutes during the whole credits. I was humbling.
40 has been endorsed by many national leaders of numerous denominations from Francis Cardinal George to even an atheist, covering a wide spectrum of America.
My favorite comment is from pro-life journalist Sheila Liaigminas who wrote, “ Unlike any other engagement of the abortion debate, the ‘40’ film gives voice to both sides fairly and lets women speak for themselves through experience on the reasons for their firm convictions about abortion. What we know now that we didn’t at the time of Roe is the impact of abortion on women, men, families and society. The ‘40’ film captures it all in an exquisite encounter with human dignity. This is one for the ages, a rare and timeless contribution to this time in history. It should be seen by all people of all persuasions, everyone, and everywhere, without exception. This was long overdue, but now we’re talking.”
Recently a young woman wrote to us after a screening and said that the segment on rape presented the best response she had ever seen to the argument that an exception must be made for rape.
We shared a rough cut of the film to college students in a classroom at Knox College and the overwhelming majority of them were pro-choice. Overall they thought the film was fair but it didn’t change their minds. People on the fence who aren’t sure where they fall on the issue of abortion have said that they need to rethink their position. Our hope is that 40 will serve as an educational tool to educate and inspire people of all ages about this so important issue.
Frank: Why is this issue so personal for you? Why are you so passionate about this issue of abortion in our nation?
John: The issue of abortion is a very emotional subject for me personally. When I was in my twenties, I was involved in one of the now 56 million abortions in this country since 1973. I’m not only post-abortive but I’m also an adoptive father.
My adopted 6 year old son Joseph Dominic could have been one of those 56 million babies that have died since Roe. V Wade, but by the grace of God, his birth mother chose life. That’s why this issue is personal for me.
Joseph Dominic is our miracle boy who landed on our laps from Heaven. Joseph was born exactly 10 days after I was on my knees praying at the tomb of Pope John Paul II at the Vatican.
Joseph Dominic is a never ending reminder of God’s infinite love and plans for us, of his Divine Providence, and that every human life is a gift from God and must be respected form the first moment of conception
That for me is the most important motivation for making the 40 film. Joseph could have been one of the 3,300 babies that die every single day in our nation. That’s why this issue of abortion is personal for me and motivated me to do something and make the 40 film.