October 13, 2012
WILKES-BARRE -- A new anti-abortion documentary film, "The Voice of John," has special meaning to producer Maryann Lawhon of Drums.
Lawhon, president of the Hazleton Chapter of Pennsylvanians for Human Life, said that when she was a nurse 35 years ago in a West Virginia hospital, she found a baby cooing in a utility room.
Lawhon told her supervisors, "I found a baby." They responded, "It's an abortion. Let it go."
Lawhon went back into the utility room, and in accordance with her Catholic faith, held the baby as it was dying, baptizing it "John" and promised, "John, I will be your voice."
She said her dedication to the anti-abortion movement throughout the last 35 years is an attempt to keep that promise. She attended the 29th Annual Respect for Life Banquet at Genetti Hotel & Conference Center this week, where she showed clips from the documentary.
The film features medical professionals, scientists, clergy and politicians, providing a comprehensive view of the issue of abortion and related issues.
"The film addresses respect for life throughout the lifespan, from conception through old age," said Lawhon, who also served as the executive director on the project.
The hour-long film uses computer graphic technologies to depict fetuses before birth. It presents medical professionals, clergy and women who have undergone abortions who share their stories. The creators of the film believe the constitutional right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," starts at conception.
In addition to being shown at Genetti's later this month, the film will be shown in area theaters and churches and is available for a nominal cost on DVD from Riversong Productions.
The documentary's production was made possible by Pennsylvanians for Human Life Northeast Regional chapters as well as through the Nancy Corrigan Smith memorial fund.
The film is not without controversy.
Heather Shumaker, director of Public Affairs at Planned Parenthood's Northeast/Mid-Penn Chapter, noted the one-sided anti-abortion content of the film, emphasizing that much of the work of her organization is focused on education and preventing unplanned pregnancy.
"We believe that abortion is a personal issue between a woman, her family and her medical provider," Shumaker said. "Each case is difficult and complex."
"This was not simply a religious production," said Lawhon in response. "This was an attempt to educate on both an intellectual and spiritual level."
She challenges those of all faiths and persuasions to view the film. Although she is fully committed to the anti-abortion effort, she wants to open a dialogue with those with other views. She also envisions assisting those who have experienced abortions with counseling and self-forgiveness.
"Our goal is to celebrate life," Lawhon said, "not to make anyone feel guilty about something that has happened in the past."
Lawhon and her production team interviewed former pro-choice leader Bill Baird, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Dr. Alveda King, niece of Rev. Martin Luther King, and others.
The film also features Dr. Frank Polidera of Hazleton, Neil Oberto from Catholic Social Services and Dr. Frank Shell of Scranton.
Those who would like to make a financial contribution to the distribution of the documentary or would like to schedule a showing of the film can do so at www.voiceofjohn.org.
"The Voice of John" documentary will be shown at Genetti Hotel and Conference Center on Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. The showing is free and open to the public.