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(Austin Texas’ South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival runs March 10-19. Stay tuned to Hammer to Nail for our usual great coverage like this movie review of Plan C. Seen it? Join the conversation with HtN on our Letterboxd Page.)

In this unfortunate age of increasing restrictions on access to medically safe abortions, thanks to both the 2022 United States Supreme Court’s decision overturning its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade verdict and a rising tide of conservative states subsequently passing abortion bans, there remain plenty of activists fighting to help women in need receive the care they need. These include the founders of Plan C, an organization created in 2014 to facilitate the spread of information on how to obtain RU486, a combination of the drugs Mifepristone and Misoprostol commonly known as the abortion pill. In her new documentary, also entitled Plan C, director Tracy Droz Tragos (Abortion: Stories Women Tell) explores the challenges faced by her protagonists as they work increasingly hard to protect the right of American women to keep control over their own bodies. It’s an uphill battle, but they will not give up.

Francine Coeytaux and Elisa Wells are the two co-founders of Plan C and are just two of the many brave souls we meet, many of whom do not reveal their faces (or real voices) in order to protect their identities. (Side note: it has always mystified me why some labeling themselves “pro-life” are so intent on threatening with death those with whom they disagree). Tragos walks the viewer through the history both of abortion access and RU486 approval before plunging into the myriad ways in which the latter has been delayed and obstructed. Approved by the FDA in 2000, the pill remains elusive to far too many women in this country, and even with federal recognition the legality of its distribution remains murky in states where surgical abortions are now banned. Plan C aims to make sure that, where possible, the pill can be shipped.

They are assisted by an informal network of medical professionals who prescribe the pill and thereby authorize its delivery. The how and the why of this is complicated, yet Tragos explains all ins and out with painstaking clarity. Hearing from folks like “Dr. M,” “Dr. K,” Dr. E,” “Dr. R,” and more, we learn how this underground system works. Everyone living in a more progressive state who sees this can thank their stars that, for now, they need not jump through these hoops. Let’s hope the next film Tragos makes is not about what happens when Republicans again seize complete national power and enact a complete ban everywhere. What’s past may be prologue, but neither the present nor future need be so bleak.

– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)

2023 SXSW Film Festival; Tracy Droz Tragos; Plan C documentary movie review

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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is: lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; editor at Film Festival Today; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is one of the founders and former cohosts of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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