The Oakland Center Habitat was in the throes of thoughtful discussions on Tuesday, October 4 as The Klein CenterOakland University Women and gender studies (WGS) and the UO Latinx Employee Resource Group (ERG) presented a screening of the documentary by Maya Cueva and Leah Galant, “On the fracture.”
The film tells the stories of three Latinx individuals, detached in a number of ways but bound by a mutual bond at Whole Woman’s Health – the last abortion clinic to open on the US-Mexico border. Located in McAllen, Texas, the since-closed clinic was, at the time of filming, the only option for area residents to get abortions.
The main subjects of the film are Mercedes – a volunteer at a local anti-abortion center and a prominent figure in her church’s anti-abortion movement who was talked out of having an abortion years before by a protester – Denisse – a volunteer escort at Whole Woman’s Health, motivated to continue fighting for access to safe abortions by stories of lives lost to unsafe abortions – and Rey – a security guard for Whole Woman’s Health who was kicked out of her church and physically assaulted by a stranger in retaliation for his employment with the clinic.
The range of perspectives depicted in the film were among its most intriguing factors for Chiaoning Su, associate professor and director of the Klein Center.
“It’s interesting, because when you think about abortion – at least for myself – I think [of it] more like a political trope of mobilization. I didn’t really think about the personal aspect and how it could be someone’s life journey,” Su said. “Rather than seeing this as a purely political issue, [viewers can] delve deeper into the human side of the matter, the personal journey, [and] whatever your position, have more empathy for the people on the other side.
The film follows the journey of the three subjects over several years. Viewers are aware of the relocation of an anti-abortion center to an address just three doors down from Whole Woman’s Health, a powerful protest inspired by anti-abortion Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s Handmaid’s Tale led by Denisse and others clinic volunteers and insights into some of the day-to-day tensions that surround abortion clinics.
Each character has seen strong growth throughout the film’s runtime, both because of and despite their ties to one or the other side of the abortion debate. Regardless of their personal stance, viewers can identify a perspective or experience to resonate with – and might be surprised at how moved they are by all three stories.
Associate Professor Rebecca Mercado Jones is currently a faculty member of the Klein Center, an affiliate faculty member of the WGS, and co-chair of the ERG. She came up with the idea of screening this film, inspired by her position on the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood of Michigan and aimed to focus an event on the history of issues that concern the organization, such as access to abortion. She felt that this documentary fit the bill perfectly.
“It’s important every time we have these conversations […] to think about – it’s not just you and me,” she said, “it’s about thinking about the vulnerable populations in society who are being harmed in this larger conversation about reproductive justice.
The screening was followed by a virtual conversation with co-directors Cueva and Galant. The duo answered questions from the audience, discussing the origins of their collaborative efforts in a college classroom, advice on how to get started in documentary filmmaking, and the core of their intention to make this film.
“Once we heard about this clinic, we got in touch with the workers at the clinic, because we wanted to talk to them and hear their perspective,” Cueva said. “One thing we thought about doing was really asking them what stories they [felt were] being left behind or misunderstood in the movement or about the work they do – and they told us no one had ever asked them that before.
The event also included presentations from Grizzlies for Choice, providing attendees with free merchandise and information about Michigan proposal 3.
The Klein Center’s next event will take place virtually next month, welcoming a faculty member Graham Cassano to discuss working with a Pontiac organization to preserve the previously abandoned Webster School. for more information contact [email protected]