In 1973, the United States Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for individual states to outlaw, or restrict, a woman’s right to an abortion within their first trimester. The decision, Roe v. Wade, was a landmark one, a triumph for individual rights, but it also became a highly contested decision that stoked the fires of the Pro-Choice/Pro-Life debate that rages on to this day.
Actually, to this day doesn’t even seem to cut it. According to the new documentary, Trapped, over 250 laws restricting abortions and women’s health clinics have been passed since 2010 alone. The debate isn’t just raging; it’s taking on fuel. Fanning those flames are conservatives who have found ways to chip away at the women’s health clinics’ business practices. Banning them may be unconstitutional, but they sure can make life difficult for them. New restrictions and regulations have shut down clinics far and wide—clinics that simply cannot comply with these far-reaching and ultimately unnecessary laws.
Trapped’s director, Dawn Porter, explores the effects of these laws with a frontline approach. Porter positions her team and camera in an Alabama clinic as they attempt to conduct their day-to-day business. Alabama was once home to 44 women’s health clinics. But after the restrictions and regulations, only six survive. Neighboring Mississippi only has one, in Jackson, and Dr. Willie Parker commutes back and forth to both.
Spearheading this regulation campaign is the state of Texas and Governor Rick Perry, causing up to 240,000 Texas women to attempt to end a pregnancy without assistance. Yet, these regulations do not stop at Texas’s border, and Alabama and Mississippi are affected too. As Gloria Gray—owner and director of the West Alabama Women’s Center—points out, the legislative branches of each state wait to see how the new regulations pan out in their neighboring states. This makes it incredibly difficult for Gray and Parker to operate as their battle with restrictions and regulations never seeming to end.
These regulations are mainly in the form of requirements. Performing doctors must receive certification far above the ones needed to perform abortion operations, and the clinics must adhere to the same regulations that hospitals do. As one of the nurses at Whole Women’s Health shows, their operating room is equipped to the hilt. They could perform brain surgery here, but since abortion is an outpatient operation, this equipment expensively gathers dust (not really, it’s spotless) and remain unused.
How these doctors and nurses manage to hold a smile as they deal with this lunacy is nothing short of saintly. They loved their work and the help that they are providing. When it looks like this might all slip away in the blink of an eye, they are understandably devastated.
But what drives this lunacy? Trapped blames the right and Rick Perry, but where does this need to legislate a woman’s reproductive system come from? Who benefits? One subject points out the hypocrisy that the same people who cry for less government intrusion clamor for more regulations of a woman’s reproductive organs. Are they concerned that if women are allowed to choose when and where they have babies, they will suddenly stop? Maybe. But what about the angry female protester who screams epithets at the health care clinic? What does she gain in all of this? Porter’s camera captures her worked up and baffled that a black doctor (Dr. Parker) is aborting black babies. “Black lives matter,” she sputters. She catches herself. “All lives matter,” she follows up.
Trapped doesn’t ask these questions, and I’m not sure it needs to. Porter’s game plan is to educate the audience to injustices they may have been blind to. Trapped is a call-to-action doc, and the time for action is now. June 2016 will see the Supreme Court’s decision on Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center is one of 10 community outreach programs across the U.S. and Canada that will screen Trapped. Check trappeddocumentary.com for more information and screening times near you.
Directed by: Dawn Porter
Written by: Sari Gilman & Dawn Porter
Produced by: Marilyn Ness & Dawn Porter
Starring: Willie Parker, Nancy Northup, Dalton Johnson, Gloria Gray, Andrea Ferrigno, June Ayers
Abramorama, Not Rated, Running time 90 minutes