Unconstitutional abortion laws highlighted by documentary
Director Dawn Porter was a lawyer before she was a filmmaker. Her film, Trapped, is about the impact of abortion regulation on clinics in southern US states. It’s rare to have a story where the main plot is legislation, but it works, and it’s heart-breaking.
Her film builds the case that some regulation specifically devised to target abortion clinics – nicknamed TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion providers) – also aims to shut them down. Abortion clinic workers explain the impact of such regulation, which includes not being near a school, or needing expensive equipment. As June Ayers, owner and director of an Alabama clinic said to camera, “the function of the bill is not to regulate us. It is to regulate us out of business. It is a trap.”
It was compelling to watch the dedication and self-sacrifice of those involved in the fight to keep these clinics open. One doctor explained how he remortgaged his house and liquidated his pension to keep a clinic running; an admin worker says how she is living off her savings and denying herself a salary. As Europeans, it’s perhaps easy to forget how contentious the issue is in the US. Footage of campaigners and anti-abortion speeches by politicians remind the viewer what these nurses, doctors and lawyers are up against.
Since the release of the film, many of the laws have been declared unconstitutional, but for some the harm has already been done: Marva Sadler, director of clinical services, cries as she recounts turning away a 13 year old who had been raped, a girl who is now, “sentenced to motherhood.”