Documentaries are a difficult genre. At the core they’re ideally set to be fact-driven and unbiased as they take in-depth looks at people and issues. In reality, each film has an angle and a message, inherently biased by its creator. With that in mind, Trapped isn’t going to change anyone’s mind about the pro-life/pro-choice debate. But director Dawn Porter still does an admirable job chronicling one aspect of the issue. By delving deep into TRAP laws (targeted regulations of abortion providers), it reveals the widespread politicization of this issue and its real life effects on those seeking abortions.
Across the country, but particularly in Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi, state legislatures are proposing laws that impose strict regulations on clinics that perform abortions. These regulations, which sometimes veer into the absurd, often cause clinics to close, restricting access to abortions and forcing people to drive hundreds of miles (particularly in a large state like Texas) to receive care.
Trapped takes care to point out the excessive nature of some of these laws, highlighting how doctors must have admitting privileges to a hospital in order to perform abortions (though reaching their minimum patient standard is often proven difficult). Doctors are also required to tell their patients that abortions carry the risk of breast cancer; then follow it up with, “There is no scientific evidence to support that.”
Still, the most powerful segments of the documentary are the interviews with women that have had or will have an abortion. Overwhelmingly, their names are changed and they sit in darkness, unwilling to reveal their identities. We see women who have traveled hundreds of miles to get an abortion after being raped, realizing that they couldn’t afford a child, or told by their doctor that an abortion is medically required after learning that childbirth would kill both the baby and mother. These women testify that abortions were the right decision for them, even though more often than not it was an emotionally devastating one.
Trapped is an emotional and horrifying look at what restrictions women face in some states. Still, it unabashedly takes a side and I doubt it will alter the opinions of any pro-lifers. But for many women out there, it is horrifying to watch our access to healthcare (particularly for minorities and the poor) get taken away in the legislature. This film provides a sense of support, showing everyone that there are people on the ground fighting to keep those rights.