In Tracy Droz Tragos’ documentary “Abortion: Stories from Women,” the stories flow with the tears of women who have had abortions as well as those fighting to make them illegal. But most striking are the patients at the clinic who felt deprived of someone to confide in during their pregnancy and who want to reassure others that they are not alone. A 17-year-old who is going to college, for her part, says she was worried about breaking her grandmother’s heart. A woman with a physically abusive husband simply had no one to tell.
Ms. Tragos, who plays down the pro-staff policy, focuses on Missouri, which has some of the strictest abortion regulations in the country and only one clinic that performs the procedure. As a result, many women cross the border into Illinois. At a clinic there, we meet a pregnant gynecologist whose job includes performing abortions. The members of his team reflect on the price of their work: the parents of one of them do not speak to him because of his work; another shakes her head above mothers and fathers who kick out their pregnant daughters, asking, isn’t this the time when they need their families the most?
Outside the clinic, the parking lot at first looks like some sort of heartfelt VFW rally, with men who look to be in their 70s marching, chanting and waving protest signs. Up close you can see the embryonic images on the panels and hear the threats of damnation.
At the University of Missouri, volunteers hand out anti-abortion flyers. Their organizer takes a light-hearted approach by offering information on alternatives. Alongside her group is a spirited contingent that supports Planned Parenthood. A young woman approaches the organizer, challenges her, and a heated debate ensues.
What Ms. Tragos succeeds in illustrating is that if you take away the signs and listen to the stories, there is little difference between women on opposite sides of the debate – at least in the region she covers. They are all human beings who love their children, work hard and believe strongly in God.