Who’s Right About Rights?

Abortion is a topic of intense debate nationwide, and a taste of that discussion came to Clark through the screening and discussion of the documentary Trapped.

NARAL hosted the event in conjunction with the Jane Fund, a group that provides financial assistance to women seeking abortions. Trapped is an award-winning documentary that investigates the state of abortion clinics in the US in light of the passage of Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws.

The film focused on clinics in the South, as they are most-affected by new laws.

“Only five doctors perform abortions in Alabama,” read on-screen text in the film.  Texas is home to three doctors who will perform abortions.  In Mississippi, only one clinic remains.

One of the few doctors in the South who will perform abortions is Dr. Willie Parker. He was pictured interacting with patients and expressing his distaste at state laws while still complying with them.

“I’m required by law to tell you that having an abortion can increase your risk of breast cancer.  There is no scientific evidence to support that,” explained Parker to a patient.

Clinic owners and employees were also a focus of the film, discussing their motivations and struggles.

“There are times I honestly think that Alabama feels like a third world country.  But it’s home,” said June Ayers, owner of Reproductive Health Services in Alabama.

Gloria Gray of the West Alabama Women’s Center, explained the effect the closing of abortion clinics has on women seeking abortions.

“Women are going to have abortions, it’s just that they’re not going to be safe or legal,” she said. Beyond personal experiences of clinic workers, the film also analyzed logistical barriers to having children as well as to having abortions.  The film explained that often people choose abortion because they feel unable to raise the child for a variety of reasons.

“I am honestly not emotionally fit to have another child,” said one woman, who chose to remain anonymous.  She is struggling to have enough time for her two children while working a full-time job.

In some states, distance is a major hindrance in the path of women seeking abortions.   In Texas, many women have to travel hundreds of miles to reach a clinic.

After the film, a panel held a discussion session.  The discussion began with a question regarding the biggest barrier to reproductive health rights at this time.  The panelists discussed stigma, lack of understanding in state legislatures, and the issue of finances. “Money, because money means access,” said panelist Marcy Ostrow of the Jane Fund.  Afton Cissel, staff attorney at the National Health Law Program (NHeLP), elaborated on this point, explaining that many insurance plans do not cover abortion.

The discussion narrowed from nationwide reproductive rights to reproductive rights in Massachusetts.

“We are fortunate.  We have a pro-choice majority in the state legislature,” said panelist Samantha Reimer, field director of NARAL Massachusetts.  Massachusetts has nine clinics, which is more than some larger southern states.

Currently, a case is working its way through the national court system challenging restrictions on clinics.  A decision from the Supreme Court is expected in the next few months.