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Advocates: Pro-life films can touch hearts, counter negative messages in today's culture

Praise for a recently released movie depicting a woman who learns she's adopted and the survivor of an attempted abortion appears to be making a difference in the box office - and helping spread the pro-life message.

While "October Baby" opened in a relatively modest 390 theaters March 23 - including one in Omaha - grass roots support and word of mouth helped it rise in ticket sales to No. 8 in the country for its opening weekend, and No. 1 among limited-release movies.

Now, it is expanding to 223 new screens around the country, with a theater in Fremont joining the pack.

And "October Baby" is just one example of the way a mainstream movie can touch people's hearts about the abortion issue and counter the press of negative messages in today's culture, several pro-life advocates in the archdiocese said.

Other examples include "Bella," about a man who gently persuades a woman to keep her baby, and "Juno," about an unwed, pregnant teenager who decides not to have an abortion, said Ann Marie Bowen, director of Nebraskans United for Life, who has seen all three films.

Of course, there are other movies available on DVD with a pro-life message about abortion, but they might not be as widely known, including titles such as "Tough Choices," "A Distant Thunder" and "Holly's Story."

Bowen said her organization uses snippets from pro-life movies to attract people's attention during presentations at health fairs and other venues, and it sometimes advertises the movies on its website to encourage people to see them.

Julie Schmit-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, said even pro-choice advocates might be persuaded to take a hard look at their own stance by a subtle message that does not preach or push a hard line.

"I just think if it's well done, it gives people from any perspective something to think about," she said.

Bowen said many people are more indifferent than strident, and an effective movie could prompt more thought from a wide range of people about what abortion is, and the harm it can do.

"I think any time the topic can be brought before the average American, who may be middle-of-the-road or apathetic about abortion, I think it definitely has to have an impact," she said.

Father Damien Cook, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Omaha and director of the Respect Life Apostolate for the archdiocese, said people learn from insightful stories - told in books, poems, art work and film.

"It's why Christ himself used parables," Father Cook said. "People remember a story that is moving."

Movies with a pro-life message also help create a "culture of life" advocated by the church, he said.

"We're trying to transform the arts, social sciences, music, entertainment and leisure," Father Cook said. "Culture plays such a huge role in the formation of people and their conscience."

Father Cook said he has not seen "October Baby" but he has heard from others that it has a strong pro-life message. He recommends "Bella" as a subtle, effective movie with an uplifting message.

Movies that speak the truth about the importance of life, and do it in emotionally honest ways, can help counter the negative, even God-less messages that often dominate the culture, Father Cook said.

"God willing, we'd get more such movies made," he said.

Even if "October Baby" does not appear in many theaters, its expected release in DVD can make it accessible to more people, Bowen said.

But whether people go to the theater or wait for the DVD, they should see it, Bowen said.

"There are so many good, pro-life messages in this film."


October Baby
A college freshman (Rachel Hendrix) plagued by chronic medical problems learns from her devoted parents (Jennifer Price and John Schneider) that they adopted her as an infant after she had survived an abortion attempt. Devastated and bewildered by the revelation, she sets out in search of her birth mother (Shari Rigby), accompanied on her journey by her best friend since childhood (Jason Burkey).
Rated PG-13 for mature subject matter, potentially disturbing references. Catholic News Service classification is A-II - adults and adolescents.

Sweetly sentimental story about an unmarried New York waitress (Tammy Blanchard) who loses her job after becoming pregnant, and her restaurant's empathetic chef (Eduardo Verastegui) - an ex-soccer star whose career ended after his car fatally struck a child - who gives the young woman emotional support, takes her to visit his loving family, and gently tries to persuade her to keep the baby.
Rated PG-13 for a couple of crass words, a child's death, a drug reference and an out-of-wedlock theme. Catholic News Service classification is A-II - adults and adolescents.

Smart, funny and ultimately moving comedy-drama with a strong pro-life message about an unwed teen (Ellen Page) who decides not to have an abortion, and promises the coming baby to a childless couple (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) who long to adopt.
Rated PG-13 for crude language and crass expressions, a nongraphic premarital teen encounter with partial brief nudity, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexual talk and divorce. Catholic News Service classification is A-III - adults (although possibly appropriate for older teens).
Source: Catholic News Service

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