Although 44 years have passed since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade recognized a woman’s right to choose, abortion remains one of the most polarizing issues in America. Since 2011, more than half of the states have imposed significant restrictions on abortion, including in Missouri, where only one abortion clinic remains open in the entire state, and patients and their doctors must navigate a 72-hour waiting period.
ABORTION: STORIES WOMEN TELL offers an intimate window into the lives of women living in Missouri. Tracy Droz Tragos (winner of the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary for “Rich Hill”), a native of the state, sheds new light on the issue, focusing not on the debate, which is typically dominated by legislators and advocates, but on women’s personal stories. Presenting a candid dialogue about one of the most divisive and timely issues facing America today, the film debuts MONDAY, APRIL 3 (8:00-9:35 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO.
The documentary will also be available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and affiliate portals.
Wherever they stand the issue, the women in the film base their choices on individual circumstances and beliefs. ABORTION: STORIES WOMEN TELL underscores their strength and capacity to overcome and persevere through complicated and unexpected circumstances.
As a result of the state’s restrictions and the availability of just one operating clinic, many women in Missouri travel across the state line, to Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Ill., just 15 minutes from downtown St. Louis, but more than 100 miles from rural Missouri. Drawing on access to the clinic, the film features interviews with a range of women of all ages, backgrounds, and faiths, as well as doctors, nurses and staff who face protestors on a daily basis, and activists on both sides, hoping to sway decisions and lives.
The film provides a balanced looks at abortion through women’s own words and experiences. Among the subjects:
- Amie, a 30-year-old single mom who splits custody of her two children with her ex and works 70 hours a week as a waitress and bartender to make ends meet. She drives 400 miles round-trip to get to Hope Clinic, where she’s given a prescription for an abortion pill. Crying, Amie thinks of her kids and says, “I’m not just doing this for me.”
- Chi Chi, a guard at Hope Clinic, who shields women daily from the anti-choice protesters in the clinic’s parking lot. Challenging a particularly vocal protestor, Chi Chi demands, “Are you gonna take care of these babies?” Reflecting on her own abortion years ago – her son was only six months old at the time – Chi Chi says it was the right decision because she didn’t want to end up on public assistance.
- Erin, a doctor at Hope Clinic who says she had no problems when she worked at Planned Parenthood in Chicago but has had protestors show up at her house since moving to the St. Louis area. “They identified me as an abortion provider, where I just think of myself as a gynecologist,” she says. When she feels worn down, Erin looks at a book with messages left by clinic patients but warns that access to abortion keeps shrinking.
- Kathy, a pro-life activist, who says that her dad once told her that she was almost aborted and that she always felt “a kinship with the baby in the womb.” Kathy hosts a local event featuring Susan, a prominent pro-life speaker who has had three abortions and sees herself as protecting women from the shame and guilt that she felt.
- Chelsea, a young woman who learned that her baby had a genetic defect and would not survive past birth. She and her husband consulted their pastor, who they say was supportive of their decision to terminate. As Christians, the couple says it was a tough choice, but knowing that they are not alone is the reason they want to share their story.
- Reagan, an anti-abortion activist for Students for Life of America. Reagan says there’s a stereotype of pro-life people as old men and women holding up graphic signs of aborted fetuses, but insists that is changing. She and other members of her group hand out anti-Planned Parenthood information on campus and are challenged by a pro-choice student, who points out that Planned Parenthood provides many other services for women besides abortion.
- Te’Aundra, a young mother who was set to go to college on a basketball scholarship when she got pregnant. She wanted to give the baby up for adoption, but the father disagreed, though he didn’t want to be involved in raising the child. With a baby daughter now in her care and her college dreams dashed, Te’Aundra says, “I’d hate to say…I probably would have just had an abortion and just been on my way.”
Interspersed throughout the film are short stories of women who have had an abortion in the recent or distant past. A few regret the decision, while others say they would not be where they are now if they hadn’t made that choice.
The documentary had its world premiere at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.
ABORTION: STORIES WOMEN TELL is produced and directed by Tracy Droz Tragos; edited by Christopher Roldan, Monique Zavistovski, Dan Duran; cinematography by Kamau Bilal, Judy Phu; music by Nathan Halpern; co-producer, Dan Duran; consulting editor, Geof Bartz, A.C.E. For HBO: senior producer, Sara Bernstein; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.