Six months into Donald Trump’s presidency, Texas has emerged as the front line in the abortion battle. In June, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a wide-ranging anti-abortion bill into law that curtails an array of abortion rights. The law has been compared with a modern form of slavery. The Guardian sent reporter Leah Green to McAllen, Texas, which is located in the southwest region of the state, near the border with Mexico, to investigate what people in the Lone Star State are really thinking about abortion, and what’s fueling the debate there. The resulting documentary, Life and death in Texas, provides an unvarnished look into the mindset of the people on the front line of the abortion battle.
Because of the town’s proximity with Mexico, McAllen has a large population of undocumented immigrants. Religion is also big there. Green visited a Catholic church and talked with staunchly pro-life women, one of whom admitted to voting for Trump in the election. The key reason was Trump’s pro-life stance, she reluctantly told Green, fighting back tears when she mentioned “the babies that are being killed everyday.”
Another woman Green spoke with told a harrowing story about her futile attempts at a DIY abortion. The young unnamed woman revealed she was part of a gang and targeted by members of a rival gang. She said she was slugged over the head and then raped by four men from the opposing gang, and wanted to abort the pregnancy that followed the assault. But, she didn’t have the money to seek an abortion at a clinic, so she she tried several “brutal” do-it-yourself methods. “I had all my homeboys and homegirls kick me in the stomach,” she said, adding that she also tried drinking several concoction she referred to as “abortion tea.” None of it worked and her “miracle baby” was born, a little boy who appeared to be about a year old and bounced around in his mother’s arms, drinking from a baby bottle, as the woman recounted her experience to Green. Despite her experience, the woman said, she still thinks abortion should be illegal and, the way she sees it, there’s only one thing society can do for women who find themselves with unwanted pregnancies.
Green traveled around to crisis pregnancy centers, which compete with abortion providers in a bid to persuade women who might seek an abortion from doing so. She also visited an abortion clinic where she talked to a doctor, Bhavik Kumar, who had relocated there from New York City two years ago. He went into dramatic detail about the cultural divide between the two places in the way abortion is viewed. “When you restrict access to abortion,” Kumar said, “people die. Whether it’s accessing unsafe abortion or taking matters into their own hands, it’s a long-known phenomenon that people, especially conservative folks that want to restrict abortion because of their ideological beliefs, want to keep repeating that [their anti-abortion talking points]. We trust that you know what’s best for you — and that’s it,” he said, highlighting how he sees the philosophical divide between the two sides. Watch the full 12-minute documentary above and find out what Green learns as her road trip takes her from San Antonio to Austin.