Video: New Short Shines A Light On What Abortion Means For Black Women

When Dawn Porter made her documentary about restrictive abortion laws, Trapped, released earlier this year, she felt like she hadn’t gotten to tell everything she wanted.

“I felt like there were so, so many Black women that I was seeing in the clinics, and I was hearing so many different stories,” she told Refinery29 by phone. As she traveled around the United States beginning in late 2012 — mostly in the South — documenting the effects of TRAP laws, such as mandatory waiting periods, she began to notice the trend. “In some places, it would be a majority of Black women [in the clinics]. But I felt like their particular stories, their voices, weren’t being amplified,” Porter said.

Now, Porter is using her own voice to lift theirs. In collaboration with Time and Essence, Porter released The Racial Politics Of Abortion, a new short documenting the experiences of Black women when it comes to accessing abortion.

The two-part video tells a piece of the puzzle that was originally left on the cutting room floor. The footage comes from when Porter was originally shooting Trapped.

“These were stories that were not in the longer film, and I felt like, I always wanted to do something with them,” Porter said. "One of the things that happened while making this film was I just kept thinking, What was my place in this story, as a Black woman?"

She said that while each woman’s experience was individual, she saw common themes of shame, disappointment, and fear that they were letting down their communities, "that they were conforming to stereotypes about being loose, or irresponsible," Porter said. "And so it felt like I really wanted to let them have a voice in their own words about what was going on."

Eventually, the stories she heard led her to uncover unexpected truths about her own family history — including the fact that her grandfather had performed abortions. "I didn’t know that story, until I asked my mother if she’s ever had an abortion," Porter said. "And that, because I asked her, she told me that story about the Klan, and about her father."

She encourages other women to ask their own mothers about their experiences with reproductive rights.

"It’s not easy to talk to your mother about her sex life, or her personal life," Porter said. "But I definitely feel like, for both of us, it made us even closer."
Watch The Racial Politics Of Abortion below.
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Part 1
Part 2
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