Documentary filmmaker Tracy Drogue Tragos has been having a rough time since 2018.
That same year Brett Kavanaugh was appointed to the Supreme Court, a decision he feared would affect access to abortion. “The writing was on the wall that Roe v. Wade could fall,” she recalls.
So, when the landmark case was overturned in 2022, striking down the constitutional right to abortion, Tragos was already well into filming her latest documentary, “Plan C,” about the grassroots organization fighting to expand access to home abortion pills. United States. The group wants those who are pregnant to know that there are safe ways to get an abortion without leaving home.
Plan C’s mission proved even more timely after the pandemic forced people to stay at home, creating another threat to the safe termination of unwanted pregnancies. Efforts to not only distribute but also spread the word about the drug through the mail as restrictions and prohibitions take effect are outlined in “Plan C,” which premieres Jan. 23, the 50th anniversary, at the Sundance Film Festival. Roe v. Wade.
“People should have access to abortion drugs outside of the clinic setting. for safer drugs than Tylenol,” said Tragos, whose previous documentaries include HBO’s “Abortion: Stories Women Tell” and “Rich Hill.” “And it’s the 21st century… why not the Internet? When Covid happened, it was kind of like, ‘Okay, the time is now.’
Tragos, with whom he spoke diversity Before trekking up the hill, don’t plan to watch the Sundance Film Festival quietly. She, along with doctors, activists and volunteers, is taking a mobile advertising van around Park City and other parts of Utah to educate the public about access to medication abortions — no need to go to Plan Parenthood.
“It’s time to be bold,” she says. “To say, ‘That’s bullshit. You have options.’
How did you first come across the organization Plan C?
It started four years ago. Back in 2018, when [Brett] Kavanaugh was appointed to the Supreme Court. The writing was on the wall Roe v. Wade could fall. Access was incredibly difficult, even before the fall of Roe. But knowing that falling Roe would make it worse, I began my research. What are people doing to prepare for the fall of Roe? What is the solution? I knew about the abortion pill, but I had never seen it outside of the clinic. I’ve seen it where people have to come in and the doctor gives them a pill and they take it to the doctor’s office. I met [Plan C co-founder] Francine Coeteaux in Los Angeles, along with several others in this network, had a vision that there should be access to abortion drugs outside of clinics. For safer drugs than Tylenol. And it’s the 21st century… why not the Internet? In 2018 it seemed wild and crazy. I was like, “That’s a great idea. But when will that happen?” When Covid happened, it was like, “Okay, the time is now.”
How did the pandemic and stay-at-home orders affect people’s access to safe abortion?
Covid has changed everything. It made things both scarier and more accessible at the same time. People were quarantined at home and told, “Don’t take public transport. Stay out of hospitals and health care centers. Only for the most necessary.” When you need an abortion, it’s a timely, essential thing. And yet, in some states, like Texas, it was considered unnecessary. So, Francine and many others said, “We’re going to make this call to arms and Going to see that people in the United States will finally go ahead and send the pill to their patients.” That’s when things really took off.
Was it difficult to find people to interview because of the sensitivity of the subject?
Since I had made a previous film about abortion access, there was some trust built up. So, I’m glad to say that it wasn’t as difficult as when I first came at it. Francine has made many introductions. There is a lot of trust-building, and it has to happen. I spent four years making the film, so there were times I didn’t have direct access. People took risks to talk to me, but also to do the work they were doing. These are brave people who were less concerned about their personal safety and convenience and more concerned with getting out and doing something that needed to be done. In large part, they saw it as civil disobedience. These were the people who believed in the big “why”. And, frankly, the public health emergency that unfolded so quickly. They opened their doors saying “why”.
Do you remember when you learned about the draft leak that the Supreme Court was voting to overturn Roe v. Wade?
Draft leaks are a bit of a blur. We were devastated. Once leaked, it certainly accelerated the need to get out. In a few days, I travel to Oklahoma, the first state to take advantage of the fact that Roe must be overturned and become the first state to ban abortion. Stepping into that clinic was devastating. All the things I’ve filmed and all the stories I’ve heard, just sitting in that beautiful clinic can Providing care but they just had to close their doors… They were getting calls from people saying “Where can I go? What can I do?” And they couldn’t help them. That experience was devastating, and inspired him to say, “I have to finish this film.” Because those people are calling and saying, “What am I going to do?” There is a solution. There are people who will help you and they are trustworthy. I felt a real urgency to get this film out there.
As a filmmaker, what is the biggest challenge in telling a fast-moving story?
It keeps happening. Alabama just passed something [law] That pharmacy says to be able to Provide abortion drugs. So I was like, “Let’s get to the end of the movie.” I’m not CNN. I am not late-breaking news with daily developments. This long-term effect of taking away rights and access has become important to say. I hope the long-form approach people can go with gives us the daily scoop on what’s happening. However, I would say that it is nuts. I don’t think we’ve hit rock bottom, unfortunately, which will happen. But I hope that the film itself is optimistic, and shows that despite restrictions, people have options, no matter where you are.
In the documentary, there is a clip of a newscaster in 2000 saying that abortion is more controversial in the United States than anywhere else in the world. Why do you think so?
It’s hard to say. This answer will be a bit of a digression, but while making this film, I was at Planned Parenthood in May 2019. It’s not in the picture, but the clinic was about to close its doors because Missouri’s health director was going to revoke Planned Parenthood’s license. Missouri, my home state, is about to become the first state to have no dedicated abortion providers I was in a room with many journalists. I’m on the side of someone like, “I hate it. My editors are always trying to make me work on both sides. He was like, “It’s not the side. Every time you talk to extremists, they are conspiracy theorists. They are the people who think the world is flat. It’s a minority in this country, and yet, we continue to give equal weight to minorities because we think it’s fair.” That really stuck with me.
With this picture, I was sure not to. It has, because protesters are constantly outside the clinic. But we have problems in providing such platforms in this country constantly. I don’t think they deserve it. What will fix it? I don’t know but part of what contributes to it is not looking at hard, cold facts. You’ve got a bunch of religious zealots, and they’re entitled to no abortion. But as a country, as media people, we don’t have to constantly ask, “What do you think about this? Do you think science is real?” Enough already. If we do, we will be left behind as a country.
What has changed in the abortion conversation since your documentary “Abortion: Stories Women Tell” premiered in 2016?
A lot. The clinic-based model was seen as mainstream and the gold standard, and anything beyond that was sketchy. There is more to understanding that telemedicine is legal. Legitimate doctors are behind it. It is safe. It is effective. You can have support and advice all along the way. Medically, this is a difficult option, and increasingly, more is being understood about it. The unfortunate part is that in some red states, it’s still legally risky.
You’re driving a mobile advertising van around Park City. Do you have any concerns about living in a state like Utah, where abortion rights are contested?
Yes, that’s the simple answer. There is always fear and anxiety. But following along with brave people who are doing this, it’s surprising when you stand up to a bully. Sometimes the bully gets away. You don’t know if there will be protests or violence. This is the time to be brave, not to hold back but to be cool. It’s time to say, “That’s bullshit. And by the way, you have options. Order advanced provisions and put them in your medicine cabinet.” If you flood the zone and make it inevitable, it’s going to be something that can’t be stopped. We’re working on getting permits. The good thing is the trucks are coming, whether we have permits or not. .It’s going to be there and, well, they might throw us out.
Is there a need to force these conversations where abortion rights are being challenged?
It is needed everywhere. But yes, where access is limited, clinics are closing and information is censored, how do you get information to the people who need it most? We need to change the description to say, “You have an option beyond finding someone to fill in for you in fundraising, child care, and work. [so you can] Take a week off to travel to New York or California [where abortion is legal]” That narrative isn’t being shared enough. You can do things discreetly, safely and privately at home. Just don’t tell anyone about it.