Maisie Crow: Jackson - Mississippi's assault on the reproductive health of poor & coloured women Print E-mail

JACKSON

SYNOPSIS (Scroll Down to read media Reviews)

Abortion remains legal in the United States but anti-abortion efforts have succeeded in making it virtually inaccessible in some places and in the Deep South, often unthinkable. At one time Mississippi had fourteen abortion clinics. Now only one remains.

Since the passage of Roe v. Wade more than four decades ago, the self-labeled “pro-life” movement has won significant cultural, political and legal battles. Now, the stigma of abortion is prolific in Mississippi and women in poverty and women of color are particularly vulnerable. Jackson is wrought with the racial and religious undertones of the Deep South and explores the nuanced nature of abortion in America’s Bible Belt.
 
Shannon Brewer is the director of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only remaining abortion clinic in the state. Barbara Beaver runs the Center for Pregnancy Choices and is a leader of the anti-abortion movement in Mississippi. April Jackson is a young mother of four children faced with another unplanned pregnancy.

Jackson is an intimate, unprecedented look at the lives of three women caught up in the complex issues surrounding abortion access. Set against the backdrop of the fight to close the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, Jackson captures the essential and hard truth of the lives at the center of the debate over reproductive healthcare in America.

THE TEAM

MAISIE CROW Director / Producer / Director of Photography
After an award­-winning career as a photojournalist, Maisie turned her attention to filmmaking. In 2014 her short film, The Last Clinic was nominated for a News and Documentary Emmy, and she was listed as one of PDN InMotion’s 20 Emerging Artists to Watch in Film and Video. In 2012, her multimedia project, Half ­Lives: Chernobyl Workers Now won an Overseas Press Club award. In 2010, her short film A Life Alone was nominated for a News and Documentary Emmy. She has taught as an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She recently worked as a director of photography on MTV's documentary series, True Life.

JAMIE BOYLE Editor / Producer / Cinematographer
Jamie Boyle is a film editor working in New York. She was the Associate Editor and Production Manager on E­TEAM, which won the Cinematography Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for two News and Documentary Emmys. She was the lead video editor for Human Rights Watch. Her work for them premiered at the 2014 Human Rights Watch Film Festival and won an Overseas Press Club Award in 2015. In 2014, she worked as an assistant editor on the short film, The House at the Edge of the Galaxy, which premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2013. She has edited for numerous leading digital media companies, working on videos for top fashion and lifestyle brands. She has worked as an assistant editor on short films and commercials, including Ross Kauffman's spot for GE and Fire with Fire, part of a series of films in the GE-­commissioned Focus Forward initiative.

JOHANNA HAMILTON Executive Producer
Johanna Hamilton directed and produced 1971, about the break­-in of a small FBI office in Media, PA by a group of activists. The burglary exposed COINTELPRO, a illegal domestic surveillance program. 1971 premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014 and was broadcast on PBS’s Independent Lens in May 2015. Previously she co-­produced Pray the Devil Back to Hell the gripping account of a group of brave and visionary women who demanded peace for Liberia, a nation torn to shreds by a decades old civil war. It premiered at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival and was short-­listed for an Academy Award.

ALISSA QUART Executive Producer
Alissa Quart is Executive Editor of the journalism non-profit Economic Hardship Reporting Project. She is the author of three non-fiction books including Branded and Republic of Outsiders and has had numerous features and opinion pieces in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Elle, Vogue and many other publications. She wrote the accompanying story and produced the Emmy- and ASME-nominated multimedia project “The Last Clinic” among other multimedia projects.Her poetry book Monetized was published in 2015: her poems have appeared in the London Review of Books, The Awl et al. She was a 2010 Nieman Fellow at Harvard and has taught non-fiction at Columbia University's Journalism School, SUNY New Paltz and elsewhere. She is currently working on a non-fiction book for HarperCollins on social class and the family.

BARBARA EHRENREICH Executive Producer
Barbara Ehrenreich is the Founder of EHRP. An acclaimed journalist, author and Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, Barbara has worked with her IPS colleagues to synthesize and catalyze a broad consensus among working journalists, community organizers, service providers and policy analysts: the U.S. public and its policymakers need help confronting and addressing the scope and depth of economic hardship in the wake of the economic collapse of 2008 and its continuing reverberations. Her leadership role in EHRP is twofold. She is writing big picture analytic pieces that remind us of the basics that the national conversation often ignores.

TYLER STRICKLAND Composer
Tyler Strickland is a film composer based in Los Angeles. His scores have accompanied recent award­-winning documentary films such as; Audrie & Daisy (Sundance/Netflix 2016), Best and Most Beautiful Things (SXSW 2016), The Return (Tribeca 2016), Fresh Dressed (Sundance/CNN Films 2015), Emmy-Nominated hit, Hot Girls Wanted (Sundance/Netflix 2015), The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano (Tribeca 2015), The Genius of Marian (Tribeca/POV), and many others. Tyler has also scored several TV specials for National Geographic Explorer, a handful of New York Times' Op­Docs, and Field of Vision short documentaries.

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PRESS

“Easily one of the year's strongest documentaries...” -Criterion Cast

“...Elegant, unsettling...” - Village Voice

“This well-crafted film adds to our understanding by humanizing some of the opponents.” -The Hollywood Reporter

“A devastating account of a broken commons, the movie reveals just how much the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions…” -Filmmaker Magazine

“Maisie Crow’s Jackson, about the last-remaining abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi, where the Dixie flag still flies over the capital, brings to mind Nina Simone’s song “Mississippi Goddam.” She wrote it after Medgar Evers’ 1963 assassination in Jackson. Watching this documentary about the embattled clinic, audiences will wonder if anything has changed since then.” -Film Journal International

“...A grim warning of what restrictive abortion legislation across the U.S. actually looks like...” -The Huffington Post

“Long after watching, the lingering effects are harrowing and haunting.” -Words of Choice

“...Sharply attuned to the racial and class issues that underpin the religious tensions.” -Films for Two

“In her new film Jackson, director Maisie Crow shows what happens when women can't get the information and support they need.” -Cosmopolitan

“...Moving, staggering and painful to watch...” -The Reveler: A Review of Religion and Media

“Because Crow was given incredible access and spent so much time with the women, she captures every crucial moment: She is with Brewer right after the clinic is vandalized, during her call with the FBI, and when she unexpectedly meets the wife of her son’s baseball coach, who works at the pro-life pregnancy center with Beavers. She is in April's bedroom when she goes into labor at 4 a.m., her mother refuses to drive her to the hospital, and she's forced to call an ambulance. Crow also pushes her characters in complicated ways, like when she asks Beavers, the pregnancy center director, if April should go on birth control after having her fifth child.” -New York Magazine

"From first-time writer/director Maisie Crow, it’s an assured film that is simultaneously fierce and kind in its depiction of two sides of a desperate crisis and in the questions that it asks and (implicitly) answers. " -Patheos

“...an empathetic portrait of a seemingly unending debate and the lives it affects.” -What [Not] to Doc

“...Jackson allows all sides in the abortion issue to have their say to illuminate the issue’s truths and lies. The results are sometimes engrossing, sometimes anger-inducing.” -BeyondChron

“Maisie Crow’s film represents a strong and scrupulously even-handed addition to the annals of documentaries on this most divisive of subjects, including ’12th & Delaware,’ ’After Tiller’ and the recent ’Trapped.’” -Los Angeles Times

“Outbursts from a captivated audience echoed through The Bronx Documentary Center during a film screening at the opening night Women’s Film Series in the Melrose neighborhood of the Bronx. The movie was Jackson, a documentary about the only abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi and the pro-life opposition attempts to shut it down.” -The Bronx Ink

“It seems every festival year we get an "important" work of art, something that cuts through the rhetoric, and Jackson shows all signs of being very important.” -LA WEEKLY

“A single mother, an abortion clinic director, and a fervent pro-lifer lay bare their stakes in the fight of one of the last remaining abortion clinics to stay open against the pro-life movement's efforts to make abortions illegal in the Deep South.” - Shadow and Act
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 Volume 388, No. 10058, p 2343–2344, 12 November 2016

Perspectives

A victory in the fight for sexual and reproductive justice

By George L Askew

When my children were younger, I loved taking one-on-one trips with each of them. It was always particularly special when exploring places new to us or that generated conversations about the world we live in. I had such a trip in 2010 with my son, then a 13-year-old budding drummer and social activist, when we visited Jackson, Mississippi, as part of what we called our Civil Rights and Blues/Jazz Tour.

Jackson
, Maisie Crow's provocative film about the battle to close the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, Jackson Women's Health Organization, brought back memories of that trip which reflect the core issues of the film. It also resonated with work I am doing with my colleagues in New York City (NYC) to address sexual and reproductive justice. In Crow's film voices on all sides of the abortion debate are heard. She talks with the clinic director Shannon Brewer, April Jackson a pregnant woman and mother of four children, and anti-abortionist Barbara Beavers who runs the Center for Pregnancy Choices. Jackson is a powerful reflection on reproductive health and justice in the USA.

That family trip took us through Selma, Montgomery, and Birmingham, Alabama, over to the Mississippi Delta, travelling to Jackson, via Clarksburg, Cleveland, and Vicksburg. We learned a lot about blues and jazz music, as well as the history of the civil rights struggle, including the parts of that history that exist today in continued social injustice and structural racism. Many of the places we went, particularly in Mississippi, revealed stark health, economic, and social challenges that still plague so many citizens in the USA, most often people of colour, who live amid inequity and injustice.

As I watched Jackson, I remembered what I saw and felt then with my son and I was reminded of the words of Martin Luther King, when he said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane”. So, when Mississippi's 64th Governor, Governor Bryant, says in Jackson that “we want Mississippi to be abortion free”, it seems to me that he is saying we want Mississippi one step closer to being completely void of equity and justice in sexual and reproductive health. As is often the case, the particular assault on reproductive health that Jackson highlights would disproportionately affect poor women and women of colour, not only in terms of access to abortion but access to a wide range of reproductive health services.



All these issues play out in Jackson, as Crow deftly allows the story to unfold in the words, deeds, and realities of those involved without pushing too hard in one direction. In the end, the viewer is left to draw their own conclusions and work out their own feelings about whether the film chronicles the tale of a victory or a defeat. For me, a staunch supporter of a woman's right and access to all forms of reproductive health services and choice, it was gratifying as the end result represented a small victory for sexual and reproductive justice. This battle ended in the courtroom where, at least for the moment, the Mississippi law that could lead to the closure of its lone remaining abortion clinic was blocked.

Sexual and reproductive justice exists when all people have the power and resources to make decisions about their bodies, sexuality, and reproduction. It means that every person has the human right to choose to have or not to have children, care for their children in a safe and healthy environment, and control their own body and self-expression, free from any form of sexual or reproductive oppression. The term reproductive justice came to prominence at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt. It was used in the USA, and emerged as a framework, in November, 2003, by Sister Song Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, led by and for Indigenous women and women of colour. The modified term sexual and reproductive justice is now used to reflect the importance of bodily autonomy and justice across the spectrum of human sexuality. In my work in NYC, our goal is to increase awareness and access to a full continuum of sexual and reproductive health and related services and contraceptive methods, so that all people can make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, and act on those decisions. The sexual and reproductive justice framework facilitates this by providing a theory and strategy developed by women of colour to address sexual and reproductive oppression.

As part of that work, it was about this time last year that I met obstetrician and gynaecologist Willie Parker, who I consider to be one of the heroes in this film and certainly a hero for sexual and reproductive justice. I was moved by his compassion, passion, and dedication. In Jackson when he says, “We're here to make sure that you can have safe, legal access to abortion. And that's your choice and that's your right to do that”, you know he will do all he can to make it so, even risking his life. Tragically, the USA has a history of deadly attacks on abortion clinics and providers. Crow highlights Parker's unflinching commitment to providing reproductive health in the face of such hostility. He unapologetically pursues his work as a health-care provider who provides abortion services, in a caring and comforting way, and through his words and actions affirms for his patients that the choice to abort or not is theirs and theirs alone to make.

A woman's choice to have an abortion is nuanced, complicated, and deeply personal. Jackson captures this complexity. I found the events documented in the film tragic, heart-breaking, and maddening. Although some continue to vehemently challenge abortion, politically push for leverage to repeal it, and in states across the country enact “restrictive” laws to diminish access to it, the reality is that the legal right to choose exists in the USA and has existed since the historic 1973 Roe versus Wade Supreme Court Decision. Mississippi's attempts to limit or eliminate this right and personal choice in the face of the ruling by the Supreme Court shows that, sadly, in the case of sexual and reproductive justice, the USA has quite a way to go.

Jackson A film by Maisie Crow, produced by Jamie Boyle.

Screening at the 2016 Global Health Film Festival on Nov 11–12, 2016, at the Barbican, London,

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 June 6, 2016
 
Los angeles film festival

Mississippi’s Last Abortion Clinic, Captured

By Catie L'Heureux
 
Jackson Women's Health Organization, as shown in the powerful new documentary Jackson. (Maisie Crow )
While the Supreme Court is expected this month to rule on its most significant abortion rights case in over 20 years, one documentary premiering on Monday at the Los Angeles Film Festival shows exactly what’s at stake. The film Jackson tells the story of Mississippi’s last remaining abortion clinic, tracing the lives of three women on all sides of the issue: the abortion clinic’s director, a pro-life pregnancy-center director, and a poor, black single mother who is pregnant with her fifth child.

Directed by Maisie Crow with co-producer and editor Jamie Boyle and executive producers Barbara Ehrenreich, Johanna Hamilton, and Alissa Quart, the vérité-style documentary is an expansion of the Emmy-nominated short The Last Clinic, published by the Atavist magazine in 2013, and a National Magazine Award finalist. As Crow’s debut feature film, Jackson comes at a pivotal moment for reproductive rights: This month the Supreme Court is expected to rule in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt; the 2013 Texas TRAP law shuttered half of the state’s abortion clinics. Since 2010, 288 TRAP laws restricting abortion access have been passed throughout the U.S., meaning that the country is still moving toward becoming like Mississippi, one of five states with only one remaining abortion clinic (the others: Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming).

Mississippi has one abortion clinic and, according to Jackson, 38 known crisis pregnancy centers, which are often funded by pro-life groups. It is the poorest U.S. state, with abstinence-based sex education in public schools and one of the country’s highest teen pregnancy rates (a trend that predominantly affects women of color).

The documentary follows three Mississippi women. There is Shannon Brewer, director of , a divorced black woman who grew up poor outside Jackson, has six children, and started working at the abortion clinic 15 years ago as a scrub technician. April, a 24-year-old single black mother to four children aged 1, 2, 3, and 4 is pregnant with her fifth child; she drank Clorox to self-abort her first pregnancy at age 16. “I’ve got so much I want to be,” she says early in the film. But she was taught that abortion is wrong. She seeks help from the film’s third character, Barbara Beavers, the pro-life executive director of the Center for Pregnancy Choices.

Crow decided to make the film after reading a 2012 Jezebel article about a Mississippi TRAP law very similar to the Texas law now before the Supreme Court; it required abortion-care providers (read: at the state’s only abortion clinic) to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Crow flew to Jackson the next day, found the clinic, and asked to film a documentary, to which the clinic’s director, Brewer, said no, as she almost always does.

“I normally cannot deal with cameras and the people and all of this stuff when I’m trying to handle this,” Brewer said in an interview ahead of Jackson’s premiere. But Crow was persistent, hanging around the clinic for months with a still camera before Brewer agreed to wear a microphone. “There’s something different about her,” Brewer continued. “She took the time, whereas a lot of people come here and they’re in a rush to just get a story. She kept her word, she earned my trust.”

Crow and her team shot 700 hours of footage over three years for the 90-minute film, which captures the important day-to-day routine ­ anti-abortion protesters’ verbal abuse outside the clinic, abortion procedures in clinic rooms, and the pregnancy center’s religious-based counseling sessions ­ against the backdrop of national news stories and speeches by lawmakers like Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, who riles up a crowd that is overjoyed at the possibility of making Mississippi the nation’s first abortion-free state.

Because Crow was given incredible access and spent so much time with the women, she captures every crucial moment: She is with Brewer right after the clinic is vandalized, during her call with the FBI, and when she unexpectedly meets the wife of her son’s baseball coach, who works at the pro-life pregnancy center with Beavers. She is in April’s bedroom when she goes into labor at 4 a.m., her mother refuses to drive her to the hospital, and she’s forced to call an ambulance. Crow also pushes her characters in complicated ways, like when she asks Beavers, the pregnancy center director, if April should go on birth control after having her fifth child. Beavers cannot answer the question, even later when April brings up the idea herself. “We need someone to father all these babies,” Beavers says, rejecting the possibility while discouraging April from having sex, to which April replies, “We don’t need no father to all them babies, I am.” The film ends with a final note: April is currently pregnant with twins, who are due in September.

It is fitting that Crow, a South Texas native, made this film. She vividly recalls the shame she felt in a Planned Parenthood one day as a teenager, when her cheer-leading coach walked in while she waited to get birth control. She remembers a high-school teacher slapping Velcro gloves together during a sex-ed class, explaining each ripping apart is what happens to your heart after having sex again and again. The most challenging aspect of making the film was fundraising, she said. With grants from Ehrenreich’s Economic Hardship Reporting Project and the NYSCA, she funded the project with most of her own money and slept on a clinic nurse’s couch for months before opting for motel rooms. An anonymous donor arrived weeks before Monday’s premiere to fund their finishing costs.

“For me it’s really important that people start to understand the disparities in access; the intersections of reproductive, economic, and racial justice; and what’s really happening down in Mississippi, what it feels like to be someone who is caught in that [abortion care] stigma,” Crow said in an interview. “If these pro-life-funded crisis pregnancy centers are now drastically outnumbering abortion clinics we need to know what they’re doing, how they’re operating, and why are there so many more of those than there are abortion clinics? … At the end of the day helping to limit unplanned, unwanted pregnancy is something that I think both sides can agree on.”

Brewer, who spoke with the Cut before flying out for the L.A. premiere, said she felt positive about the pending Supreme Court decision. “No matter what they’ve tried to do, every day I get to come in here, unlock these doors, and these women still get to come here,” she said. “Every day that you open the doors it’s like, Y’all didn’t win today ­ y’all did not win today.”
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