Could there be a better time for a documentary like Dawn Porter's Trapped to hit the national scene? The Sundance Award-winning film chronicles the abundance of TRAP laws, designed to restrict clinics that provide legal abortion services. The film arrives just days after the Supreme Court began hearing arguments about such a law passed in Texas, which has used these oppressive regulations to reduce the number of clinics to a mere handful statewide. Those looking for balance on the issue of abortion rights won't find it here, but Porter makes a strong case for why there doesn't need to be ideological balance when talking about women's healthcare choices.
Trapped goes right to the frontlines where abortion clinics in deep red states like Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama are doing everything in their legislative power to cut access to reproductive services. While the Roe v Wade decision legalized abortion in this country, its detractors have looked for new ways to undermine it. These TRAP laws burden the providers and clinics with unnecessary regulations that are nearly impossible to meet. For instance, an abortion provider like Dr. Willie Parker, one of the film's primary focuses, must have admitting privileges at a hospital. Parker explains in detail why this is silly, since he would never have enough patients to keep the privileges in the first place. Other crazy regulations, such as the pointless yet expensive medications each clinic must carry (which only expire and get thrown out), cause such a hardship that most clinics are forced to shut down their doors. Basically, the anti-choce movement has taken their protest out of the streets and into the halls of Congress, where they'll find plenty of elected officials willing to skirt the Constitution to support the cause.
But don't think that means the picketing protestors, carrying signs with pictures of dead fetuses on them, have gone away. The film is at its strongest when following the brave people who come into work every day to give women the help they need; enduring shouts of "murderer" from protestors outside, and the constant looming threat of violence. While there are number of experts interviewed, such as Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder of Whole Woman’s Health; those coldly analytical segments aren't nearly as effective as the personal stories of those women who made the difficult choice to have an abortion. In one instance, a mother of a special needs child openly talks about the financial and psychological hurdles she already faces, and how that led her to make her decision. There are other such stories, and that most of the women are forced to remain hidden only goes to show how volatile the abortion debate continues to be, four decades after Roe v Wade. Even at the film's world premiere at Sundance, guests of the film leading a Q&A had to be kept in secret until the last minute.
In one of the film's most heart-breaking and infuriating moments, an abortion provider is forced to turn away a 13-year-old rape victim because of the state's laws. The provider ponders what will happen to the girl, who must now get the money, time, and transportation to travel thousands of miles away to get the abortion she needs, probably to a place that will be less safe. It's a situation no woman should have to be forced into, just as they shouldn't be forced into being a mother. As a work of pure advocacy, Trapped is a timely, vitally important call-to-arms to protect women's Constitutional rights. The issue of abortion will probably always be with us, one way or another, but for this particular battle in that ongoing war Trapped is a powerful weapon.
3.5 out of 5