The battle between government and women’s reproductive rights makes its way into headlines relentlessly. As the arduous fight continues on a larger political and societal scale, “Trapped,” a documentary by Dawn Porter, identifies individuals on the battlefront in the states of Mississippi, Alabama and Texas, and their personal in-arms combat with the powers that be.
The Women’s Center and The Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Brooklyn College hosted a screening on Monday for “Trapped” as part of their 40th Anniversary Celebration. Released earlier this month on March 4, the film interviews clinics, their administrators and staff, patients and a physician who continue to push for women’s reproductive rights despite attempts by the government to deem abortions illegal.
Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or “TRAP” laws, aim to limit the health care that doctors and clinics provide with the intention of making abortions impossible. Such laws require practicing physicians to obtain licenses as admitting doctors of a hospital, require clinics to designed as ambulatory surgical clinics, or even require that a clinic not be within the vicinity of a school.
Pro-life Governor Rick Perry (R) signed into law House Bill 2, which closed down a majority of Texas clinics from 41 down to a crippling seven, according to the International Business Times. This bill has been one of the stricter anti-abortion laws placed into effect. Senator Wendy Davis (D) filibustered House Bill 2 for 11 hours prolonging the progress of the decision as protesters stood in solidarity with her fight. Her supporters cheered her on as she spent those 11 hours, without break, in sneakers speaking out against the bill.
According to Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, there have been over 300 laws passed that have set heavy restrictions on abortion in the past three years. According to lawmakers, these restrictions are for the benefit and wellbeing of women.
The decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973 constitutionalized abortion as a woman’s right according to her personal judgment concerning her body and her health. The TRAP laws negate the landmark decision. “Like Roe v. Wade doesn’t even matter anymore,” said an administrator at a Whole Woman’s Health clinic, Marva Sadler. Located in Texas, Sadler’s clinic, is one of few clinics that remains open and is under scrutiny by government.
The film shows a snippet of The Rachel Maddow Show, where Maddow states, “Those new regulations that are set to reduce Texas to a state where there are only six clinics for the whole state, where there’s one reproductive health clinic per every 2.2 million women in the state.”
The argument here is that abortions will not stop even if medical abortions are eradicated by the government. Abortions will still exist. Women will find alternatives to safe, medical help — alternatives that can be potentially life-threatening and dangerous. If a health clinic closes, the need for one still remains. This only means that women, if they financially can, will travel miles to another clinic. In situations where time is of the essence, the price for an abortion increases into the second and third trimesters. Different states have different laws concerning Medicaid, but specifically in the states of Texas and Mississippi, voluntary abortions (for non-medical reasons such as fetal impairment) are not federally funded, according to a report released by the Guttmacher Institute on March 1. Women pay out of pocket and the longer they wait, the more expensive the procedure becomes. This puts a strain on women from low-income communities, many uninsured, that the clinics serve.
And what of the moral, religious stance that life begins at conception? Trapped covered this argument showcasing Willie Parker, an OB/GYN, who spoke about his personal convictions in the film. Parker grew up in a black fundamentalist Baptist church community that preached the sin of abortion. His work, providing women with early termination and reproductive care, he feels, aligns with his religious responsibility. After losing a family member to pregnancies that were too close together, Parker feels his work is justified and honorable, drawing parallels with himself and the Biblical character of the Good Samaritan.
“I’m Dr. Parker, one of two doctors who flies into Mississippi to provide abortion care for women. There are no doctors in Mississippi who will provide care. As you know, it’s a very hostile environment. My decision to go there was based on the fact, if nobody else will go, who’s going to go?,” he said in the film.
In a scene where Dr. Parker pulls into a clinic for work, he is met by a protester who beseeched him to return to the faith and to “stop killing babies.” “He used to be a Christian,” said the protester in an interview. Another protester admonished Dr. Parker using the Black Lives Matter rhetoric to say it is ironic that he, a black man, kills black children. “All black lives matter! All lives matter!” she yelled.
“When you have a sense of duty about what you do, it allows you to ignore the naysayers,” he said.
The criminalization of physicians like Dr. Parker and clinic staff have only ignited their passion to strengthen their crusade efforts, but the criminalization has debilitating effects on the women who seek abortion.
A young girl interviewed in the documentary cried as she broke down about her decision to terminate her pregnancy. “I got through everything,” she said, “the death of my mother…I have a hard time forgiving myself,” she admitted. The judgment placed upon this girl and others like her give them a sense of shame that is harmful at a vulnerable time.
The film ends as the battle is taken to the U.S. Supreme Court. Arguments were heard on March 2 in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case. Whole Woman’s Health challenges House Bill 2 and its violation to uphold Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right of a woman to choose abortion under the protection of law. The decision will be made this June.