Dawn Porter’s new documentary Trapped, released Friday, March 4, explores the political battle over abortion and features abortion providers, clinic workers, and women seeking abortions, specifically in three clinics in the South, located in Texas, Mississippi and Alabama.
“A lot of people today are not thinking about access to abortion until they need one,” filmmaker Dawn Porter commented on her documentary. “And when they need one, they’re not thinking about politics.”
The documentary’s title refers to state laws that the featured abortion clinics must comply with. Abortion rights activists collectively nickname these state laws “TRAP laws,” in reference to “targeted regulation of abortion providers.” The rules often require that physicians who perform abortions obtain admitting privileges from local hospitals and that rooms in which abortions are performed contain the same medical equipment as an operating room used for open-heart surgery. The expense of these overhauls has caused many abortion clinics across the Deep South to shut down. Only one abortion clinic remains open in Mississippi.
“I think it’s quite clear that the people behind the laws are anti-choice and have been coached that the most effective ways to close abortion clinics is put in language about protecting women,” Porter explained to the Washington Post.
The documentary shows that no matter the situation the pregnant woman finds herself in, the TRAP laws don’t change. During the documentary, workers in a Texas clinic try and fail to find a way to get a 13-year-old gang-rape victim to an abortion clinic before her pregnancy reaches a state at which she can no longer legally terminate it. The 13-year-old girl must instead find a way to either get to New Mexico to terminate the pregnancy or bear the child of one of her rapists.
While the 13-year-old girl does not appear in the documentary, other women seeking abortions do. Filmmaker Porter and her co-writer Sari Gilman told the Post that they “both felt so strongly we didn’t want to have only ‘sympathetic’ situations” in the documentary—situations that pro-life activists refer to as exceptions: women whose lives are in danger or whose babies would not live past birth and victims of rape and incest.
“One of the things we discovered when we talked to women was all of the situations were sympathetic,” Porter told the Post. “Every single one of them… These women, they’re not reproductive freedom fighters. They’re women who need abortions.”