What to Watch If We’re Still Waiting for Hellerstedt

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PBS to Air ‘Trapped’ Monday, June 20

Another Sunday night waiting for for the Supreme Court’s decision on Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the landmark abortion case that will determine the future of abortion care in this country. It’s become a nerve-wracking routine, scanning Facebook, waiting for emails from NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. My lawyer friends say not to expect a decision until next Monday, June 27, but I can’t help but start to feel sick when I see lead plaintiff Amy Hagstrom Miller’s weekly update about traveling to DC to wait. It’s hard to breathe deeply enough.

One thing is for certain: Trapped, the fantastic documentary about the effects of HB2 on Whole Women’s Health here in Texas, and similar TRAP laws on independent abortion clinics in Alabama, will air Monday night on PBS’s Independent Lens. I had the opportunity to see Trapped earlier this year at SXSW. Back in March, I wrote,

Trapped is activist film making at its best–gripping, informative and upsetting. The film provides a clear and unstinting account of what happens on the ground in women’s health clinics that provide abortions when TRAP laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers) go into effect. Trapped will make you angry, it will make you proud, and it will make you want to take action, right now, in the months while we wait for a decision from the Supreme Court..

Part of me can’t believe we’ve finally gotten to this point. June 2013 seems like a lifetime ago. But here we are, in the final stage, possibly the final hours, of waiting for a decision from the Supreme Court. And the fact that it’s coming at this deeply unsettled and unsettling time in the court’s history makes it all the more surreal.

Honestly, that makes watching Trapped all the more perfect. No matter what news we do or do not get Monday morning, abortion providers are going to wake up Tuesday morning and do everything they can to provide women across the country the health care they need. Abortion funds are going to support women who cannot afford to the financial barriers that have been placed in front of low income women electing to terminate pregnancies. Lawyers will try to help minors who need judicial bypasses to access abortion care because they cannot safely ask for a parent or guardian’s consent. Trapped tells the story of what’s actually at stake while we’re waiting for Hellerstedt, holding our breath for the future of our country.

My review of Trapped from March follows below.


‘Trapped’ Shows the Truth About HB2

In her latest film Trapped, filmmaker Dawn Porter chronicles the heroic efforts to provide abortion care as HB2 and similar legislation in other states went into effect. Trapped is activist film making at its best–gripping, informative and upsetting. The film provides a clear and unstinting account of what happens on the ground in women’s health clinics that provide abortions when TRAP laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers) go into effect. Trappedwill make you angry, it will make you proud, and it will make you want to take action, right now, in the months while we wait for a decision from the Supreme Court.

Trapped is screening in Austin this week as official selection of the SXSW Film Festival. Reviews have appeared in The Guardian, The New York Times, and Salon. Coming so quickly on the heels of the March 2nd arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the SXSW screenings have helped to amplify Trapped‘s critical role in ending the stigma that surrounds talking openly and positively about abortion in the U.S.

The facts are simple: one in three women in the United States will have an abortion. It is impossible to imagine that there is any other medical procedure that a great percentage of American women will undergo in their lifetimes. But the private and often complex circumstances that contribute to the decision to have an abortion have been twisted into a silence that separates and shames. This silence about the most personal aspect of abortion–the reasons we choose to not become mothers when we were not planning to, whatever those reasons may be–is called abortion stigma, and it has been a central element of the right wing attack on reproductive rights ever since Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1972. Trapped makes an enormous contribution to ending abortion stigma by showing how caring, respectful and selfless abortion providers are themselves and by allowing women who decide to have abortions to speak for themselves. 

Trapped shows the barriers that HB2 has placed on Texas women seeking abortion care, particularly lower income and rural women who have to travel up to 200 miles to visit one of the few remaining clinics in Texas. Funding is now a critical component of keeping Texas women’s ability to receive abortion care. That’s why the Texas abortion funds play the critical role in abortion care. The Lillith Fund,  West Fund and Fund Texas Choice provide financial support for women who need help to pay for variety of costs–travel, childcare, time lost from work–that HB2 and other TRAP laws have created.

The great news about Trapped is that seeing the film makes people want to take action. At the SXSW premiere last Friday, the audience wanted to know what they could do while we wait for the SCOTUS decision in June. Dawn Porter encouraged everyone to talk about the film as a way to fight abortion stigma. Currently, screenings are planned in San Antonio (March 30),Houston (April 5) and Austin (April 12), with plans for El Paso and Lubbock in the works. It’s time for Texans to see Trapped–to understand what HB2 has already done and exactly what’s at stake this year.

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