TRAPPED, documentary, not rated, Center for Contemporary Arts, 3.5 chiles
Between 2010 and the end of 2015, state legislatures passed 288 laws regulating abortion providers, with more still in the process of being legislated. These laws include requiring that abortions be performed in high-level ambulatory surgical centers designed for much more invasive procedures, and that doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at a local hospital, even though several such doctors provide services throughout an entire state or in more than one state. Many doctors are forced to discuss risks of abortion procedures with patients, such as breast cancer, that politicians and not doctors have determined are associated with abortion. And in some states, doctors are legally required to perform some procedures, like ultrasounds, more often than medically necessary, thereby increasing the number of visits a patient must make to a clinic. For patients in southern Texas, this means making multiple overnight journeys to San Antonio.
Supporters of these laws say they are to make healthcare safer for women. Opponents call such legislation targeted regulation of abortion — or “TRAP laws” — and say they serve only to increase costs for abortion providers, making it difficult or impossible to remain in business.
Trapped, an up-to-the-moment look at the consequences of TRAP laws in Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi, directed by Dawn Porter, is a natural companion to After Tiller, a 2013 documentary about the availability of late-term abortion in the United States. The movies share the same sense of urgency over the erosion of a constitutional right, and reveal providers as human beings with strong personal callings to their careers. Dr. Willie Parker, a devout Christian, spent many years working in Chicago and traveling to Alabama and Mississippi to perform abortions. After TRAP laws reduced the number of abortion providers in Mississippi to one, he moved there so the state would have two. Like Parker, many owners, doctors, nurses, and staff members in Trapped are African-American; they are routinely harassed by white protestors outside of the clinics who tell them they are evil for aborting black babies, and that “all black lives matter.” One clinic owner has a sprinkler system in place to keep protesters from getting too close, but her daily visitor, who holds a sign and yells at the building about Jesus, doesn’t seem to mind getting soaked.
As each new set of TRAP laws gets put in place, more clinics have to shut their doors, and the open clinics see their call volume double or triple overnight, after patients find their appointments canceled elsewhere. The dedicated clinic owners and doctors are stretched to capacity, mentally and physically, but those interviewed in Trapped show no signs of giving up the fight for safe, legal abortions — in areas of the country where that fight gets more difficult every day.
Helping hands: a scene from Trapped