What You Need To Know About The Battle For Abortion Rights

Photo: Courtesy of Trapped.
Update: Tonight at 10 p.m., PBS will air Trapped, Dawn Porter's searing look at the effects of TRAP laws (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers) that are pushing abortion clinics in the South out of business. If the abortion rights debate has ever seemed abstract to you, this documentary will throw it into deeply personal relief — it's not to be missed.

This story was originally published on February 25, 2016.

If you're not mad as hell about the battle for abortion rights in this country yet, you should be. When you watch the new documentary Trapped, you will be. Dawn Porter's powerful film follows abortion providers in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas over two years, as they face an onslaught of pro-life regulations designed to force them to close their clinics. Its release could not be more timely as the Supreme Court prepares to hear Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which will examine these regulations' constitutionality.

While conservative legislators present these rules, known as TRAP (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers), under the guise of "protecting women's health," they do nothing other than make it harder for a woman who has chosen to terminate her pregnancy to do so. These rules may demand, for example, that abortion clinics meet the same standards as surgical centers, regardless of whether they actually provide surgical abortions, or that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital — despite the fact that less than 0.3% of abortion patients experience a complication that indicates hospitalization (and, oh, right, even if a woman does require hospitalization, she doesn't need her abortion provider to be the one who admits her).

Over the past five years, states have passed 288 TRAP laws. Trapped gives voice to the abortion providers crippled by them, the reproductive rights advocates fighting them, and the women whose lives are upended by them — from mothers who know that they are neither financially nor emotionally equipped to care for another child (60% of U.S. women who have an abortion already have at least one child) to a 13-year-old, 20-weeks-pregnant rape victim turned away by a clinic stripped of the resources to care for her.

Porter, the director of Trapped, was meticulous in establishing trust and obtaining consent from her subjects. "People who come into a clinic seeking an abortion are not there to make a film," she tells Refinery29. "Nobody wakes up and says 'Today would be a great day to have an abortion'... [At] every place, I would make an announcement and say 'Under no circumstances are you going to be filmed without your permission, but if you do want to speak to us, please let us know.'"

"I desperately wanted to hear from the women, but at the same time, I was kind of mad," Porter continues. "[Your abortion is] none of my business, which is the whole point. It was a tricky thing, to feel that 'I want to hear you and I want people to hear you, but I'm so sorry that I have to ask.'" As women's right to choose remains under fire, we're glad that she did.

See Trapped in theaters beginning on March 4 at these locations, and watch the trailer below.

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