Dawn Porter is a woman who keeps up with current events, but when she was on location in Mississippi for a documentary, she was shocked and disturbed to learn from the local paper that there was only one independent abortion provider in the entire state. Her reaction eventually became TRAPPED, a trenchant examination of how legislatures in the deep south are circumventing Roe v. Wade with laws designed to make obtaining a safe and legal abortion all but impossible. When I spoke with Porter on March 9, 2016, she described that experience, and how making TRAPPED forced her to reject the controversy that has grown up around the issue of abortion, and get back to the medicine. By focusing on the providers, dedicated and compassionate people of faith, and on the people seeking the procedure, Porter’s film takes back the argument from the anti-abortion factions, and returns it to the people it affects most directly, which also directly addressing the lies doctors are forced by law to tell patients.
A woman of wit, humor, and great insight, Porter discussed her journey, as well as why she chose to focus on the providers and patients, the larger implications of these laws for the separation of church and state, and what almost made her cry.
My biggest takeaway from both the film and the filmmaker was the point that one clinic made with a sign that, for me, sums up the mutually exclusive attitudes of the people on both sides of this issue: Jesus never shamed women the way anti-abortion protestors do.
TRAPPED follows the fight to preserve abortion rights in the face of state laws specifically designed to close independent clinics under the pretext of concern for women’s health and safety. Following the struggles of several clinics in the deep south, Porter reveals the hypocrisy of those formulating and passing these laws, and, in contrast, the impact on women seeking the procedure, from women who know they can’t nurture another child, to a 14-year-old rape victim whose time for a simple abortion is running out. Porter’s previous work includes GIDEON’S ARMY, about overworked and underfunded public defenders, and SPIES OF MISSISSIPPI, about a tax-funded anti-civil rights organization operating in that eponymous state