'Abortion: Stories Women Tell' chronicles deep divide, legislative restrictions

Watch the trailer for "Abortion: Stories Women Tell'
Watch the trailer for "Abortion: Stories Women Tell'

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Watch the trailer for "Abortion: Stories Women Tell' 01:41

(CNN) "Abortion: Stories Women Tell" is HBO's latest advocacy-oriented documentary, chronicling the impact of Missouri abortion restrictions on those forced to cross the Illinois border to seek procedures. Spare and sober, it's a solid look at how raw the issue remains, though given how entrenched opinions are, it's unlikely to change many hearts or minds.

Director Tracy Droz Tragos' 93-minute film unfolds from the perspectives of multiple women. That includes a few who are seeking abortions as well as activists on both sides of the issue, among them one who regularly protests outside the clinic around which most of the stories revolve.
The narrative is more varied than the title might suggest, but the underlying message is clear: While Roe v Wade came down as a Supreme Court ruling 43 years ago, obtaining an abortion has become far more difficult in recent years due to legislation enacted by pro-life lawmakers, such as Missouri's 72-hour waiting period.
    The project is essentially bookended by Amie, a 30-year-old single mother who works 70 to 90 hours per week. "I cannot put my family through another kid right now," she says, before driving more than two hours into Illinois.
    Several of the women who are already mothers speak of financial and economic hardships. "I can't have a baby right now," one says, her voice tinged with resignation.
    Additional participants face other personal challenges and concerns. One was abused by her husband. Another discovered that the man who impregnated her is married. In one case, the woman is carrying a baby that she knows is not viable.
    For most, the choice is clearly agonizing. As for the activists, the most bracing moments involves an exchange at the University of Missouri, where a woman passing out anti-abortion leaflets is confronted about her views.
    Small groups of picketers are also shown assembling outside the clinic, with one man using a bullhorn to amplify warnings like, "God is going to destroy America." Given past acts of violence against abortion providers, it's chilling to hear a doctor say that she has had protestors show up at her house.
    A Missouri native, Droz Tragos has offered an intimate series of portraits, in the service of a film imbued with a sense of built-in futility. Abortion remains an almost hopeless source of societal division, with little evidence that either side has much patience politically in listening to the other.
    It would be nice, of course, to see greater understanding and empathy, or at least more charity of spirit. But that's not the space in which the abortion debate is conducted, regardless of the stories women tell.
    "Abortion: Stories Women Tell" will receive a theatrical release beginning August 12. It will air next year on HBO.