By Richard von Busack
In June, the Supreme Court may consider the legality of Texas HB2, the model of restrictive abortion laws being implemented all over the South and elsewhere. One is reminded of the anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s famous quote … because if ever there were a case of laws being chains for the poor and cobwebs for the rich, here it is. The well-off can pick a facility in a large city. The lower classes have to bus in for hundreds of miles. They need to stay over for a couple of days to endure mandated waiting periods, engineered to make them endure the birth of an unwanted child.
Dawn Porter’s documentary Trapped tours harassed and overbooked clinics in places like Alabama and Mississippi. Horror-story cases abound: A gang-raped 13-year-old having to find a judge to approve her abortion (technically speaking, the court can appoint a lawyer for a fetus). A 43-year-old woman surfs the web looking for dangerous herbal abortifacients. One pregnant woman already has her beloved autistic child to care for.
These abortion providers are often religious. The devout Dr. Willie Parker, one of the few men who doesn’t look silly in a “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like” shirt, considers his work as a tribute to his grandmother, who died in childbirth. June Ayers, an Alabama clinic manager, has to deal with a dwindling numbers of doctors who will perform abortions. And in Texas, HB2 takes what was an outpatient procedure and surrounds it with a labyrinth of expensive regulations, requiring the same level of medical equipment as you’d need to perform open heart surgery.
There are two takeaways from this brave documentary. One is the cheering thought that the providers haven’t lost a sense of humor: Ayers displays a bumper sticker that reads, “May the baby you save grow up to be a gay abortion provider.” The other thought is the reminder that undefended rights wither away. The cultural shame that anti-choicers wield prevents the one in three women who have had an abortion from speaking up and championing this cause.