Producer of ‘Silent Scream’ anti-abortion film dies
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Donald S. Smith, who produced the controversial anti-abortion film “The Silent Scream” and, with help from Ronald Reagan’s White House, distributed copies to every member of Congress and the Supreme Court, has died at 94.
Beverly Cielnicky, president of Crusade For Life told The Associated Press on Thursday that Smith died Jan. 30 in Wenatchee, Washington, following a bout with pneumonia.
He had remained active until shortly before his death, Cielnicky said, recently completing a book titled “The Power of Jesus Christ” that he finished by dictation after his eyesight began to fail.
He is likely best remembered, however, for “The Silent Scream,” the 1984 documentary he wrote and produced.
The 30-minute film depicts through ultrasound the abortion of an 11-week-old fetus. As the abortion proceeds, a narrator describes the instruments used to carry it out and maintains that the fetus’ movements indicate it is emitting a “silent scream.”
Its release created a sensation, with anti-abortionists citing it as proof that fetuses less than 12 weeks old are living beings who can feel pain. Abortion rights supporters denounced it as a cleverly crafted fraud, adding that embryologists had determined fetal neural pathways do not develop until 24 weeks, meaning no 11-week-old fetus could feel pain.
Smith screened the film at a February 1985 news conference in Washington’s Old Executive Office Building next door to the White House. Reagan was not present but he had called the film a “chilling documentation of the horror of abortion” at a rally three weeks before, adding everyone should see it.
Afterward Smith distributed the film to members of Congress and the Supreme Court.
Cielnicky said the film remains one of her group’s most powerful statements, adding it has been translated into seven languages.
“He was a visionary. He always had something that he envisioned to help America stop killing the babies,” she said. “He did brochures, he wrote books.”
His first book, 1985′s “The Silent Scream,” was inspired by reaction to the film.
The veteran advertising man became an opponent of abortion even before the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade affirmed a woman’s constitutional right to the procedure. He founded Crusade For Life in 1970. In the 1980s he served as director of the California Pro Life Council.
Donald Schellin Smith was born in Chicago on June 19, 1924.
After service in the Army Air Corps and graduation from the University of Chicago, he moved to California to take a job as a technical writer with Hughes Aircraft. Later he founded his own public relations and advertising firm, Donald S. Smith Associates. He retired to Wenatchee in 2012.
Smith is survived by six children and 18 grandchildren. His wife, Virginia, and one of his children preceded him in death.
Funeral services are scheduled for Sunday at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California.