New Documentary About Abortion Screens At SXSW

by | Mar 14, 2023 | Austin, Reproductive Rights

With a major ruling about mifepristone possibly happening this week, an audience at South by Southwest got their chance to view a new timely documentary, Plan C, about the abortion pill, and the advocates and providers that are trying to increase its access and awareness.

The organization Plan C was co-founded by Francine Coeytaux, a public health specialist. The grassroots network provides knowledge and resources about medication abortion throughout the United States. Coeytaux’s work changed throughout the course of the documentary as COVID-19 opened the door for medical providers to directly mail the abortion pill to patients.

The Signal spoke with Plan C director Tracy Droz Tragos about the documentary, which covers a mindboggling span of time from the pandemic to Texas passing Senate Bill 8 and then to the Supreme Court decision reversing Roe v. Wade. Tragos, who previously directed Abortion: Stories Women Tell for HBO, was startled by the Kavanaugh hearings in 2018 and felt “the writing might be on the wall” regarding Roe. Her research led her to Plan C and to Coeytaux, who she contacted through LinkedIn.

For Tragos, making the documentary in such unprecedented times was like a “rollercoaster.” There were travel restrictions, as well as ensuring the safety of the crew and those appearing in the film. “It felt relentless at times, but I also was really compelled to tell what was happening as it was happening,” said Tragos.

Texas plays an outsize role in Plan C. The film captured in real time the impact of SB 8, and the other draconian abortion bans that were implemented in the country after Roe was overturned. Coeytaux and her fellow abortion access advocates remained defiantly committed to their calling.

At one point the film follows Coeytaux as she places stickers with a Plan C QR code into bathrooms on college campuses. For Tragos, that’s the type of fearlessness she wanted to show. “These are people who are standing up in spite of these restrictive laws that were coming down, and I thought it was important for the story to be told.”

Many of the providers and advocates were on hand in Austin at the screening and received a standing ovation

In a chilling twist, Plan C’s SXSW screening was happening just a few days before a hearing in a lawsuit seeking to reverse the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, one of the two pills prescribed for a medication abortion. The Signal has previously spoken with legal scholars who noted that there are several processes that would need to play out within the FDA before a widespread removal of mifepristone. Still, these are the type of anti-abortion strategies that are deliberately meant to sow confusion.

No matter how the judge rules, Tragos is confident that the network she followed will still work just as hard to provide care. “These are folks that are not afraid.” Even the very existence of the documentary could be a powerful tool for someone who might be afraid of prosecution for assisting abortion care. They could recommend a film.

Plan C debuted earlier this year at Sundance before heading to Austin. A trailer was also just released.

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A longtime writer and journalist, Jessica was thrilled to join the Texas Signal where she could utilize her unique perspective on politics and culture. As the Features and Opinion Editor, she is responsible for coordinating editorials and segments from diverse authors. She is also the host of the podcast the Tex Mix, as well as the co-host for the weekly SignalCast. Jessica attended Harvard College, is a onetime fitness blogger, and has now transitioned to recreational runner (for which her joints are thankful).

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