Dawn Porter’s latest documentary Trapped explores the current abortion crisis in the United States. On Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt went in front of the Supreme Court, dictating the fate of abortion rights in Texas and ultimately all of the United States. Recently, many laws have been passed to restrict abortion rights. These laws are called Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws.
Our being vocal and active when it comes to abortion laws will determine whether Roe v. Wade will still legally matter in America. Dawn’s film premieres March 4th. Watch the trailer now:
Danniah Daher: For our viewers who haven’t seen the documentary yet, can you give us a synopsis?
Dawn Porter: Trapped is a feature documentary about abortion clinics in the deep south as they try to comply with a whole host of TRAP laws passed, that are really meant to close them. So I spent almost three years filming in clinics across the south—in Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. And ultimately focused on the stories of clinics in Alabama and Texas as they try and comply with these laws. And then the other piece of the film is about lawyers from the Center of Reproductive Rights who are fighting to keep the clinics open. Their case is now going to the Supreme Court.
DD: That’s a big deal.
DP: It’s a big deal.
DD: What do you want people to take from this documentary?
DP: I think that for many people, it’s unimaginable that Roe v. Wade could not protect their right to choose an abortion. But that’s the very real reality that we’re in. I say that I aim this film at people like me, who take this [right to choose] for granted. We think this is something that will always be there if we need it—and with clinics closing at an unprecedented rate across America—that’s not the case. There are five or six states in America that have one abortion clinic. In Texas, more than half of the clinics have closed in the last year. There are 19 clinics in the whole state of Texas—second largest state in America. If the Supreme Court upholds the laws that are regulating these clinics, that number will be cut in half again. And there will be 9 clinics in the state of Texas, all in major cities. So in small cities, there will be no abortion clinics. So, it’s quite real for women who are trying to access abortion and for the people who work in those clinics.
DD: If nothing happens and the TRAP laws continue shutting down clinics, who do you think will be affected the most—what do you think will happen?
DP: You know, we’ve already seen the impact of lack of access to safe abortion. The University of Texas did a study that estimates between 100,000 and 240,000 Texas women have tried to self-abort. There’s an increase in hospital admissions, an increase in people harming themselves to end a pregnancy. It’s quite clear what will happen if there’s no access to safe abortion. Women’s lives and health will be at risk.
DD: So what can the average person do to help this cause?
DP: This is an issue where people being active and vocal will make a huge difference. The Supreme Court is expected to decide the case in June. If between now and June, people explain and speak out, that will make an impact on the court. The second thing is, people need to decide who they’re going to vote for. Not only on the presidential level, but in the state elected houses. Because it’s at the state level that all of these [TRAP] laws have been passed, and they’ve been passed in large part by conservative tea party activists. You know, most Americans are pro-choice. And yet you have more than half of the states in America passing these laws. There’s a disconnect there. And that’s largely because a very vocal minority is electing your state representatives. The greatest threat to abortion is conservative state legislators who believe that there shouldn’t be many forms of birth control—they oppose the IUD, they oppose stem cell research, they oppose IVF to try and get pregnant—so, people really should educate themselves about where this trend is going. It’s not just abortion. It’s a number of things related to reproductive rights. And if I were a young woman in my 20’s or 30’s right now, I’d be pretty upset about this.
DD: On a more personal level—you’re obviously a very strong, confident woman—who have been your mentors?
DP: I’m a lawyer by training. And I had a number of people I respected along the way. I had a male partner who I did a lot of work for. We couldn’t have been more different. He was Republican, white. But ya know what? He taught me so much about being responsible and caring about my work, and he also trusted me with a lot of responsibility. And it made a big impression on me. Then I worked for a woman, Carey Smith, at ABC News. And I had only worked there for a little while when I got pregnant. When I was about to have my first baby she said, “What do you want to do when you come back? ” And I was like, “What do you mean? When I come back I want to come back to work. I’m not one of those people who can’t handle work and a baby.” Sure enough, I had the baby, and I was like, “I can’t come back to work! I can’t do this!” And she created a job-share position for me with another young mother for many years. She also modeled for me what it would be like to be a working mother—it’s difficult. You want to do what’s best for your kid and you want to do what’s best for your job. I travel, I make films, I’m a lawyer—but I’m also a mother. And that’s possible, but it’s not possible accidentally. I say that, because being a mother is such an important job to me that I hope every woman can have children when it’s the right time for her. I am so pro-choice, and so pro-motherhood. To the extent that you can, you give your children the best opportunities—but you can only do that when you are in the position to be the strongest mother you can be.
Images via www.trappeddocumentary.com and Instagram / @danniahdaher
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