Filmmaker Rebecca Haimowitz discusses her documentary, 62 Days, which airs on World Channel, Sunday April 15, at 9 PM ET, and on both UNC-TV and SCETV, Monday, May 7th, at 9 PM.
What inspired you to make this film?
I first heard about Marlise Muñoz in the news, and I was immediately drawn to this family's heartbreaking dilemma. This was such a complicated and challenging situation—I felt it deserved a deeper examination. This family experienced an unimaginable tragedy and then were drawn into a very public debate about what should be done when a pregnant woman is declared brain dead. Everyone had an opinion about what choice they should make, but the truth is they didn't have a choice. This law takes that decision away from family members and puts it into the hands of the state. I thought this story offered the rare opportunity to show that laws intended to protect fetal life can have all kinds of unintended consequences beyond the polarizing abortion debate. I was inspired to share this family's journey from tragedy to activism, as they fight to change this law.
What makes this a southern story?
This is a Texas family who went took their fight from the hospital, to the courthouse, and all the way to the Texas House of Representatives. But their fight is hugely important across the country. Texas is one of 32 states—many of them in the South—with laws that restrict or deny a pregnant woman's end-of-life decisions. So this southern story is really relevant across the nation.
What were the challenges and blessings in making this movie?
It was a challenge to tell a larger story within the context of this specific case, but I wanted to stay with the family on their journey and let the broader questions emerge from their experience. It was my enormous honor to gain the trust and confidence of the Muñoz family during such an emotional and difficult time. And I was fortunate that people with very different opinions—from both sides of the political aisle—spoke openly with me for the film. As an interviewer, I had some of the most fascinating and important conversations of my career filming this documentary. And I had quite a few people tell me that Marlise's story challenged them to think differently and even change their minds about laws that regulate a pregnant woman's body. It's so rare to find a topic that can transcend the typical polarizing debate on "life versus choice." I was blessed to show a much more nuanced and complex take on this issue and to make a film that asks important questions.
How did the story change you?
This story revealed to me how politics can force their way onto unsuspecting individuals and make unlikely activists out of everyday citizens. The Muñoz family never asked to be in the spotlight. They suffered a terrible tragedy and then found their lives and choices scrutinized and vilified on a public stage. Their decisions and motivation were not at all about politics; they just wanted to honor their loved one's wishes. I am deeply moved by their choice to see this through not just for Marlise, but for anyone who may face this in the future.
What do you hope will happen after people see this story?
I hope people will reflect on how laws intended to protect fetal life can have far-reaching effects on women and families, beyond the the labels of "pro life" or "pro choice." These questions of life and death are so deeply personal, and I want to amplify the voices of those who have experienced this heartbreaking dilemma. Should someone's end-of-life decisions be overturned by their capacity for pregnancy? I hope people will watch this film and think hard about who they want making these difficult decisions.