Film exposes anti-abortion TRAP laws in U.S.

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support today for as little as $1 per month!

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

PARK CITY, Utah -- This week, a Houston grand jury returned a surprise indictment. It was tasked with investigating videos that purported to expose Planned Parenthood for selling the body parts of aborted fetuses. The grand jury found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, but instead charged the video producers, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt from the anti-abortion group The Center for Medical Progress, with tampering with a government record, a felony.

Meanwhile, another video was released this week, this one an accurate depiction of the threat to women's reproductive rights around the country. TRAPPED is a moving documentary that premiered Sunday night at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. It demonstrates how access to safe, legal abortions has come under assault in the U.S., as state after state passes restrictive "TRAP" laws, that's "Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers." These laws, which have proliferated since the tea-party sweep of state legislatures in 2010, purport to protect the health of women, but actually result in the closure of women's health clinics. The film is being released nationally as a woman's right to choose whether or not to have an abortion faces a crucial challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 2.

Dawn Porter is the award-winning filmmaker who wrote, directed and produced TRAPPED. While in Mississippi shooting an earlier film, she learned that the state had only one remaining clinic where abortions were available. She went there to meet Dr. Willie Parker, an obstetrician/gynecologist.

Appearing on Democracy Now! early in the morning after the premiere of TRAPPED, Dr. Parker told me:

"I've been an OB-GYN for 21 years, a doctor for 25. And when it became clear to me ... that one in three women need abortion care in their reproductive lives and that disproportionately poor women and women of colour were not having those services, it became important to me to guarantee access to these very important health services by moving back to my hometown in Birmingham and to provide services in the South."

The film follows Dr. Parker and several other abortion providers in Alabama, where TRAP laws have been passed that mandate onerous changes to clinics where abortions are provided. Most of these laws are based on model legislation drafted by an anti-choice group called Americans United for Life. They force safe, legally functioning abortion service providers to make costly and unnecessary improvements to their facilities. In scores of cases, the clinics cannot afford to make the changes, and have to shut down.

In one scene of the film TRAPPED, Dr. Parker is shown with a patient. He is relaying to her information that is required by Alabama's TRAP law:

"I'm required by law to tell you that by having an abortion, it can increase your risk for breast cancer. There is no scientific evidence to support that. Now, the state requires me to tell you that if you were having this procedure, there is the risk of complications. I think that's a good thing to know, the risk. The state requires me to tell you that you can have heavy bleeding that can be life-threatening, and it could require you to be transferred to the hospital and need a blood transfusion. If you're having a bleeding that can only be controlled with removing your uterus, you'd have to have a hysterectomy, and you'd lose your ability to have babies in the future. Those are all the risks associated, but guess what. Those are the exact same risks that's associated with having a baby. It is to say that you're not taking any extra health risk. So abortion is extremely safe."

In Texas, the TRAP law, known as HB2, passed in 2013. Before HB2 became law, there were 40 operating abortion clinics in Texas. Only 19 remain. A San Antonio clinic filed a lawsuit opposing HB2's restrictions. That case, Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt (formerly v. Cole), will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 2, with a decision expected by June.

The doctored videos that were created to take down Planned Parenthood failed in their goal; their creators face years in prison. While TRAPPED will be airing in June on the PBS documentary series "Independent Lens," it also will be shown in movie theaters, with concurrent community screenings. Dawn Porter hopes her latest film will engage, persuade and mobilize people across the country as this critical health-care issue is decided by the Supreme Court.

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of The Silenced Majority, a New York Times bestseller. This column was first published in Truthdig.

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.