Documentary-maker Tracy Droz Tragos’ timely, rousing latest feature Plan C represents a de facto sequel to her earlier work, 2016’s Abortion: Stories Women Tell in that both films revolve around one of the most contentious issues in American politics. But where Stories focused on the impact and experience of regular people terminating their pregnancy or those helping others to get a safe, legal surgical procedure, Plan C offers a portrait of those on the front line of the war over women’s right to choose: the founders and organizers who run Plan C. This grassroots organization advises women on the so-called abortion pills, and helps them acquire access to these drugs, which were recently declared safe by the FDA but are technically illegal in many states that have since banned abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.
Obviously, the film has an intrinsic social utility in that it offers an informative explanation of how these drugs — mainly known as Mifepristone, which is used in conjunction with Misoprostol — work to safely end a pregnancy of up to 12 weeks when used orally or vaginally by someone who is pregnant. Viewers can but hope that it will get exposure through further festivals after its Sundance premiere and end up, like Abortion: Stories Women Tell, broadcast on national television. Tragos also offers here a neat potted history of how abortion law has changed in the U.S. post the Dobbs decision as seen through the eyes of physicians, volunteers for Plan C and those seeking abortions and willing to allow their voices, and even faces in some cases, to be seen onscreen.
The Bottom Line
Moving and urgent.
Given the risk of prosecution and violence, several of the interviewees here have chosen to keep their identities occluded in one way or another, either with digital blurring, restricted views of their facial features or by just withholding their full names. One doctor, whose voice is distorted throughout to keep her identity safe, says that it’s only because she needs to protect her husband and children that she’s staying anonymous on camera. No one in their right mind would blame her, or any of the others met here, who are sacrificing their safety no less than those seen in Stories Women Tell risking picket lines of screaming so-called pro-lifers.
In fact, in a strange way this film underscores that there is more reason to hope now for those who support the right to choose. In a way, one of the worst outcomes — the overturning of Roe — has already happened. So long as people keep fighting to stop Republicans from doing the worst and passing a federal law banning abortion throughout the country, then those seeking to terminate pregnancy can still get access to abortion pills from states where it’s not yet been banned or severely restricted.
Plan C’s founders, Francine Coeytaux and Elisa Wells, have a record as lobbyists and campaigners, having been instrumental in ensuring that Plan B, also known as morning-after pills, are widely available in pharmacies. The urgent need to widen access to Plan C treatment during the pandemic has lead to a worldwide expansion of the network of doctors and those capable of dispensing abortion pills to Americans, and the film introduces us to some of the people who make this possible every day.
Extensive archive news material is drawn on to explain key moments in the struggle over reproductive rights, but mostly the story emerges organically from the interviewees themselves. Together, they make up a portrait quilt of many different ages, ethnicities and sexual preferences, all of them united with a grim determination to fight a battle that will go on to take many forms in the years to come.
Venue: Sundance Film Festival (Premieres)
With: Francine Coeytaux, Elisa Wells, Robin Marty, Dr Torres, Dr Amaon, Frances Morales, Carrie Baker, Loretta J. Ross, Farah Diaz-Tello, Dr. Rebecca Gomperts,
Production companies: Dinky Pictures, XTR, Lismore Road Productions, Kopcho Reproductive Justice Fund, The Case for Her
Director/producer: Tracy Droz Tragos
Executive producer: Jess Jacobs, Dr. Holly Corn, Jonathan Kaufelt, Margaret Munzer Loeb, Kathryn Everett, Bryn Mooser, Tracy Droz Tragos
Co-executive producers: Monika Parekh, Tracy Segal, Evan Segal
Co-producers: Nancy Blachman, Erin Samueli
Directors of photography: Derek Howard, Emily Topper
Editor: Meredith Rathiel Perry
Music: Nathan Halpern
Music supervisor: Tyler Boudreax
1 hour 39 minutes