I first traveled to Jackson, Mississippi, after reading an article about a new law that could shut down the last remaining abortion clinic in the state. The racial and economic disparity was palpable. Access to reproductive services had already been greatly diminished in previous years and the intersection of all three—race, class and family planning—was alarmingly real. It was strikingly evident what segment of the population was struggling with poverty and that their inability to access comprehensive family planning services perpetuated that struggle. It prevented them from finishing school, it shut them out of adequate employment, it brought tension to their home lives and family relationships. This lack of access to reproductive care prevented women from deciding for themselves what their futures would be.
The more time I spent in Jackson, examining how women’s health needs had been diminished and ignored, the more evident recurring themes in the anti-abortion agenda became. Abortion opponents employ a paternalistic tone of benevolence to coerce pregnant women, particularly poor women of color, to carry their pregnancies to term. Motherhood is deemed noble and worthy, no matter what challenges it brings. By claiming to know what is best for these women, while disregarding what the women themselves say they need, opponents have developed a complex system of shaming, inadvertent or not, that proclaims their own moral codes. This language has made fetuses sacred and more important than the struggles of the women who carry them. It emphasizes “personal responsibility,” even while it seemingly inhibits pregnant women from making decisions for themselves. Abortion opponents work to sanction any sexual behavior they consider immoral and consider motherhood as a redeeming consequence.
I grew up in Texas, no stranger to the anti-abortion movement and lived in a culture that glorified virginity and shamed women who embraced their sexuality. As I grew older and really began to question what I had been taught, I found it important to better understand the effects of certain Christian beliefs that permeate the entire Southern landscape. While I believe many Christians have good intentions, I was compelled to better understand what anti-abortion sentiment and action means for those who are most impacted by the stigma and shame applied to female sexuality and family planning services.
I chose to make this film in Mississippi because I was struck by the dire nature of a state that only has one remaining abortion clinic. My intentions were to provide insight to the reality of this cultural climate and the women who were closest to it.
Jackson follows their daily lives, capturing their struggles and intentions, while exploring the complex and confounding nature of the abortion debate in Mississippi and the rest of the nation.
- Maisie Crow, Director