Film

Abortion Doc ‘Trapped’ Shows How Far Lawmakers Will Go to Stop a Legal Procedure

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This alarming advocacy doc surveys the right-now situation in states whose legislatures have in recent years imposed onerous restrictions and bureaucratic rigmarole on abortion providers, usually under the guise of “protecting women’s health.”

These TRAP laws — that’s “Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers” — demand madness of clinics serving women in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, and other states. Director Dawn Porter shows us doctors like Willie Parker forced to recite nonsense to patients (“I’m required to tell you that there’s a risk of breast cancer,” Parker says, before immediately explaining that, no, actually there’s no evidence of such a risk). Another doctor tours us through the intentional absurdity of new safety requirements, which can insist that clinics do everything from installing heaps of equipment they’ll never use to maintaining expensive stores of medicine.

As Porter emphasizes in statehouse footage, the intent of these laws is to make abortion scarcer, not safer. To that end they have been effective: Many facilities are closing, others face great staffing challenges, and Trapped is never more upsetting than when the staff at one clinic realizes that all these rules will make it impossible to help a particular woman.

Porter offers compelling interviews and somewhat engaging footage of everyday life at the clinics. Occasionally we hear or see the doctors consult with patients in scenes of warm and tense feeling, and the choruses of protesters get their moments as well, but other sequences aren’t so vital or revealing. Still, a grim suspense enlivens even the shots of nurses shuffling through hallways, as Trapped‘s story is unfinished — the Supreme Court is expected to weigh in on the legality of TRAP laws this June.

Trapped

Directed by Dawn Porter

Abramorama

Opens March 4, IFC Center