It is dusk. A shaky camera follows a young, African-American man threading his way through a heavily wooded area off a highway outside a major U.S. city. Dead leaves crunch underfoot as he answers questions from the cameraman.
"Where are we?" the cameraman asks in a low voice.
"We're in the woods across the highway from Robert Parks, an abortionist," the young man states. "He's a doctor.
"Six months ago, I was selling women's shoes," he says, smiling as he continues his trek, with a sniper weapon and a mat slung across his back. "Believe that? Now I'm out here in the woods shootin' people."
"How far are we from the house right now?" the cameraman asks.
"We're about 250 yards," the shooter says as he reaches his destination, a clapboard house on a cul-de-sac. The shooter arranges his mat in the wooded area, aims his weapon and waits. Minutes pass. Then a white man emerges from his home and begins walking toward his vehicle. A single shot rings out and he drops to the ground like so much detritus.
That is the chilling opening of Gates of Hell, a feature film set in 2016 that looks back to the year 2014 as it chronicles the crimes of a murderous band of black domestic terrorists known as Zulu 9, who see abortion as a form of black genocide. To combat their enemies, Zulu 9 travel around the nation killing abortion doctors in this alchemy of fear and loathing.
The film's producer is Molotov Mitchell, a 32-year-old white conservative from North Carolina. He describes the venture as a political action thriller aimed at helping to dismantle abortion laws. The film was released as a DVD in February during Black History Month to underscore its importance, he told The Root.
"The Black Panthers were sounding the black genocide alarm when abortion was legalized and they were very aggressive about it and there were even some violent incidents in the 1960s," he said. "But what if someone today from a militant group were to connect the dots? Could there be some sort of terrorist attack? That would create quite a fascinating plotline, I think. That's where Gates of Hell came from."
Not surprisingly, the film has inspired outrage. Pro-choice proponents call it an outright attack on women's reproductive rights. Equating abortion with black genocide has long been known as a hot-button issue. Critics wonder if conservatives and Republicans are using the issue as a ploy to draw black supporters to their pro-life movement to help take down abortion laws.
"When we saw the trailer, we were appalled," said Dionne Turner, communications coordinator for SisterSong, Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, an Atlanta-based organization. "We didn't want to give it any credibility at all. Women should have the right to make the choice for themselves without having to deal with such negativity."
While some African Americans are social conservatives when it comes to issues such as abortion and sexuality, many are reluctant to cross party lines. And some proponents of pro-choice say that given the racist and xenophobic commentary that has been expounded by conservatives and Republicans of late, many blacks would be hard-pressed to believe anti-abortion activists' claim that they're concerned about black abortion rates.
"Are the folks behind the movie black?" asks Monica Simpson, deputy coordinator for SisterSong. "That is a very interesting thing. There are these white folks pushing this notion of genocide in the black community. I don't understand. How does this involve them? It's a tactic of theirs to sensationalize things and draw on people's emotions."
Mitchell eschews such criticism. He joins a long line of pro-lifers using women's reproductive health as a political plank in the upcoming presidential election. Black women are a major part of their arsenal. Consider this: African-American women obtained 40.2 percent of all pregnancy terminations in the United States in 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That rate is far greater than that of white and Hispanic women, even though blacks make up only 13 percent of the population.
And while agencies such as the Guttmacher Institute and Planned Parenthood attribute the higher abortion rate among blacks to a higher incidence of unintended pregnancies, Mitchell says that the rate is linked to accessibility. He argues that Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, was a racist whose goal was to extinguish the African-American community through abortion and that is why the group has ensured that clinics are available in abundance in black neighborhoods.
However, the Guttmacher Institute released statistics (pdf) last year showing that fewer than one in 10 abortion clinics are located in predominantly African-American neighborhoods, or those in which the majority of residents are black.
But Mitchell is not alone. The "Too Many Aborted" billboard campaign has rankled the nation, and other films like Maafa 21, which was written and directed by Mark Crutcher, a white pro-lifer in Denton, Texas, have become par for the course. Maafa 21 links Sanger with genocide or Nazi-style eugenics designed to wipe out the black community through abortion.
Not since the battle against Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nearly 40 years ago, has the issue held the nation's rapt attention. The political landscape is dotted with measures involving efforts to legislate women's reproductive rights, including personhood laws, which argue that life begins at fertilization. Just last week, a new law took effect in Texas that bans state funds from going to agencies that provide abortions. The new law took effect after the federal government announced it would no longer contribute to the Texas Medicaid Women's Health Program because the state excluded Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid-eligible provider. An estimated 130,000 poor minority women depend on the programs for a variety of services, including Pap smears and breast exams.
In another example, eight of the nine senators in the Georgia Legislature walked out in protest when the Senate passed restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion and contraceptives.
Who can forget the controversy surrounding the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation's plan to withdraw funding for breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood locations across the country? While the group later reversed its decision under political pressure, the move would have hit low-income women of color hardest in a battle that was driven by Komen's staunchly anti-abortion vice president for public policy, who later stepped down.
Mitchell said that abortion is a political lightning rod that will not go away. If his film can help save one life, he will be pleased.
"It's a fascinating topic and plot, a documentary from the future about how terrorists wage war to get revenge for black genocide," he said. "It's a fascinating thriller. This film is in no way a call to arms or promoting violence, of course. It's just a fascinating theoretical portrait of what could happen in the future."
Lynette Holloway is the midwest bureau chief for The Root. The Chicago-based writer is a former New York Times reporter and associate editor for Ebony magazine.