No Matter Your Stance, 'Abortion: Stories Women Tell' is a Powerful Film

Photo Credit: HBO
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Abortion.

It’s arguably one of the most controversial words in the English language. Whether you agree with the morality of abortion or not, the fact remains it’s legal in the United States. However, lawmakers in some states are making it less and less accessible to the point where it’s practically non-existent.

The HBO Documentary Films picture, Abortion: Stories Women Tell, focuses on one such state, Missouri, and more importantly the women who live there.

I should note that by critiquing this film I’m not endorsing or condemning abortion, I’m judging the film simply on its merits as a documentary. As a producer, director and storyteller Tracy Droz Tragos crafts a thought-provoking, heart-breaking, and powerful piece of work that follows women on both sides of the abortion debate.

The film begins in the wake of Missouri’s decision to pass a 72-hour waiting period for any woman considering an abortion. It’s the latest restriction by the state to all but abolish the practice, which became legal across the U.S. following the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973. In Missouri, there is currently only one abortion clinic in operation.

HBO

Much of the documentary focuses on the Hope Clinic of Illinois, which is located just over the state line. Many women, including single mom Amie, trek hundreds of miles through Missouri to seek assistance from nurses and doctors at the clinic.

Tragos and her crew are with them every step of the way. She puts us in the passenger seat as a bumpy camera goes in and out of focus and gets tight on the faces of these women, fully immersing us in their journey.

HBO

From teens, to single moms, to happily married couples to elderly women, Tragos documents how their decision (or impending decision) to get an abortion affects their lives. None of them want an abortion, but, whether it’s their financial situation, the health of their unborn child, or other circumstances they feel this is the necessary choice for them.

Conversely, Tragos documents pro-life women, young and old, all of whom take a religious stance against the practice. But these aren’t caricatures, they’re human beings, she tells their stories too. At some point, they were affected by abortion in a way that led them to oppose the views held by pro-choice advocates. They protest outside of the facility and on college campuses and hold community rallies. These are women too, and they get their fair shake.

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The often forgotten people on this issue are those who work at the clinics. In the past, abortion clinics and abortion doctors have literally come under attack, occasionally resulting in death. Tragos never touches on the subject but alludes to the dangers and uncertainties these women face every day. Employees admit to lying about their profession. Family members won’t speak to them. They face protestors on a daily basis but continue to work. They’re called murderers and told they’re going to hell, but they’re passionate that what they’re doing is right.

The legality of abortion is a hotly debated topic that is decided primarily by males. Tragos rarely interviews men in the film and shows lawmakers only in news footage. Pro-life. Pro-choice. It doesn’t matter. These are the people affected most by abortion. She puts women front and center where they belong.

Abortion: Stories Women Tell

Produced and directed by Tracy Droz Tragos

93 minutes

Opens in select cities on August 12