Gov. Scott Walker signs a bill restricting abortion after 20 weeks. The film contends it’s based on questionable science.
In the new documentary Playing Dr., a Madison filmmaker takes on the onerous task of presenting the politics and science behind Wisconsin’s 20-week-abortion ban.
The July 2015 ban, signed by Gov. Scott Walker as he vied for the Republican presidential nomination, is also known as the fetal pain bill. The bill undermines language in Roe v. Wade that marks fetal viability at 24 weeks; its proponents pointed to research — without peer review — showing that fetuses are viable and can feel pain at 20 weeks. Wisconsin was the 14th state to pass legislation tied to the 20-week mark. The subject intrigued writer and producer Ben Fritz, 39, who has previously worked on Lifetime movies and art-house films, as a subject for his first documentary.
Fritz approached the issue by interviewing lawmakers, doctors and organizational leaders with firm stances on abortion. “In today’s media, culture and politics, things are so divisive, it was a refreshing experience to just bring it down to human conversation and honor everybody,” Fritz says.
He started by asking people on the street in Madison, Milwaukee, Wausau and Green Bay who they would contact if they had a health issue. Most responded that they would contact a doctor. Fritz followed up by asking if they would contact a politician or a lawyer, which often elicited laughter.
“We have legislators making statements about health and science and our bodies that have no basis in what’s considered to be the truth. They’re making health care decisions, and they’re completely unqualified,” Fritz says.
Playing Dr. attempts to present the facts that the average person is unlikely to sift through with an unbiased perspective. It examines how people on both sides of the issue use “junk science” from biased sources, often without peer review, to represent their views.
He notes that since President Donald Trump was elected, two more states have adopted similar legislation. On the campaign trail, Trump vowed to sign abortion restrictions into federal law.
“You’re going to see legislation like this in the future,” says Fritz. “Here’s information that we feel is important to consider when this comes to your state and when this comes to the entire country.”
Playing Dr. will screen at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 30, at Sundance Cinemas 608. There will be a post-screening talk with representatives from Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health.