When Amie, a 30-year-old single mother from Boonville, Missouri, realized she was pregnant, she knew she had only one option. As a restaurant waitress who worked over 70 hours during the weeks her children were with their father, she found she couldn’t support a third child on her 3.67 income. $ an hour (plus tips) without her five-year-old son and the suffering of an eight-year-old. She decided to terminate her pregnancy, but due to abortion laws in her home state, the procedure was a challenge that required her to travel four hours across state lines to get to an Illinois-based clinic.
At a time when many state legislatures are trying to pass increasingly restrictive laws to overturn a woman’s constitutionally protected right to abortion, Missouri has quietly succeeded in becoming a center of strict legislation and lack of access (example: a St. Louis–Planned Parenthood is the only clinic that offers abortions in the entire state). In the fall of 2014, Missouri lawmakers introduced new hurdles with a bill that not only imposed a 72-hour waiting period on anyone seeking an abortion, but also required an in-person counseling session led by the State intended to dissuade them from undergoing the procedure.
Wanting to draw attention to the lack of reproductive freedom in Missouri, award-winning director Tracy Droz Tragos has begun filming her latest documentary, Abortion: Stories told by women, just as the law came into effect. In making the film, Droz Tragos chose not to rehash the ubiquitous talking points used on either side of the abortion argument, but to highlight the personal side of the issue and give real women the opportunity to talk about their experiences. She interviewed dozens of women, including women who had abortions, leaders of the Missouri pro-life movement, medical professionals, clinic escorts and security personnel, all of whom had their own stories to tell. .
Amie is just one of many women featured in the film who chose to terminate a pregnancy because they could not support the child. On the other side of the spectrum, Droz Tragos interviews several pro-life activists, including Kathy, an organizer for the international group 40 Days for Life, who believes her calling in life is to end abortion and whose father told her that her mother was considering having an abortion while she was pregnant with her.
There are also stories of young women who have chosen to have unplanned pregnancies, some voluntarily and some not. Te’Aundra was a high school student preparing to enroll at Kentucky State University on a basketball scholarship when she found out she was pregnant. She planned to have her child adopted, but after her daughter’s father threatened her with legal action, she was forced to raise the baby on her own, putting a permanent damper on her college dreams.
Through a series of personal vignettes, Droz Tragos offers insight into how women of all backgrounds (and political persuasions) feel about one of the most controversial issues facing America today. today. Ahead of the documentary’s April 3 premiere on HBO, Charm spoke with Droz Tragos about what inspired her to make this film, why she chose to take a break from social media while creating it, and what she hopes people on either side of the argument will can learn from the women who have shared their stories.