The smartest thing Tragos does is refuse to stack the deck by portraying abortion opponents as hateful or deceived.
As she captures protests and preaching outside the Hope Clinic, where a number of her subjects go for abortions, Tragos interviews a young activist, Reagan, regional coordinator of Students for Life, who describes harassment outside clinics as “horrible”. Tragos captures abortion opponents at prayer meetings and assemblies outside the Missouri State Capitol, and speaks to a woman who became a lawyer after deciding she regretted her own abortions . When Reagan gets into a heated debate with a pro-choice student at an activity fair, “Abortion: Stories Women Told” manages to express sympathy for Reagan’s difficulty in the argument, even though it doesn’t. don’t agree with his position.
Rather than trying to take down opponents of abortion, “Abortion: Stories Told by Women” focuses on the financial pressures, personal wickedness and cruelties of fate that led the film’s subjects to abort.
For Amie, terminating a pregnancy allows her to keep a grueling job that allows her to take care of the two children she already has. “I’m already a 30-year-old single mother,” she explains in the film. “When I don’t have custody of my children, I work around 70 to 90 hours a week. There’s no way I can physically carry a baby and work. Barb, who works as a nurse at the Hope Clinic, had an abortion while in nursing school 40 years ago. “They wouldn’t let you finish school if you were pregnant,” she said.
Mercedes found out her partner was actually married shortly before learning she was pregnant. Janet chose to terminate her pregnancy because she used drugs when she was pregnant. “We could have made it work,” insists his partner. “How did it go? Janet asks him, both practically and sadly. A student expresses her frustration with her boyfriend, who does not want to take care of their child but also insists that she not have an abortion. “My son’s father, he was going to snatch the baby from me anyway,” said another young woman bluntly.
Given the real dilemmas these women face, the people who support them in their decisions are doing more to meet their immediate needs than the protesters who pray for them and try to talk them out of it, no matter how sincere those pro-life objections may be. .
A clinic volunteer waits with a blanket so women can enter the doctor’s office without fear that their facial expressions will encourage the protesters. Chelsea, whose child would not survive even if she could carry him to term, is comforted by the pastor who supports her and prays for her during her abortion. “I thought how great it was that someone had this guy to be her husband. Because he’s been such a support to me,” Monique says of the nurse who tells her that she can hold his hand during his intervention.
Taken as a whole, “Abortion: Stories Women Tell” is an eloquent portrait of deadlocked political debate. No matter how deep the life advocates’ beliefs, they have no immediate material solutions for women facing extreme economic hardship, domestic violence, or the prospect of giving birth to a child who will die immediately afterwards. . And while there is no doubt that women like Amie, Chelsea and Monique face pressing choices they would rather not have to face at all, their dilemmas are unlikely to deter people for whom abortion is a purely moral or religious question.
But while no film could single-handedly resolve this fault line in American public and private life, the most defining moments of “Abortion: Stories Women Tell” involve something that has too often been missing from this poisonous conversation: the kindness.