PARK CITY, UTAH – JANUARY 23: (L-R) Blake Kopcho, Stasia Obremskey, Nancy Blachman, xx, Tracy Droz Tragos, Jess Jacobs guests and Alejandra Vasquez attend the 2023 Sundance Film Festival “PLAN C” Premiere at The Ray Theatre on January 23, 2023 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Steven Simione/Getty Images)
by Stephanie Ornelas
“The only way you get out of dealing with a bully is to stand up to a bully.”
These were one of the many powerful lines delivered by activist Francine Coeytaux in Tracy Droz Tragos’ documentary Plan C. The film premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival at The Ray Theatre, and the production crew and activists were passionate about the subject matter surrounding their powerful project. By the end of the film, audiences were brought to their feet.
The documentary follows Coeytaux, who has spent decades working in public health,focusing on new reproductive technologies (including the development of emergency contraception)and the activists tirelessly working alongside her to deliver access to medicated abortion.
“When I started [the project], it looked like [Roe v. Wade] couldn’t possibly get overturned. Then somehow in 2018 — when Kavanaugh was appointed to the Supreme Court — there was this intrepid network of providers and activists who were already doing the work and already laying the groundwork for the day that we are now in,” says Tragos. “Then I met Francine and I heard about her vision to provide abortion medication through the mail. It seemed wild at the time, but when COVID hit, I think a lot of doors opened. Abortion in a lot of places became much less accessible, but because of their work, people were still able to get the care that they needed.”
With abortion restrictions and bans going into effect, Coeytaux and her team of providers established Plan C — a grassroots organization dedicated to expanding access to medication abortion. Tragos followed the team for over four years as they searched (and continue to search) for ways to distribute abortion pills while still following the law. Using unmarked vans serving as mobile clinics, they work to distribute medication to those who cannot get help in their own states. As calls continue to come in daily from women desperate for medication, the Plan C team works relentlessly to make sure they have support.
“We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into,” laughs Coeytaux. “But what we did know was, we did not want to be an underground railroad. We were trying to yell this from the tallest mountain. So the idea of doing a documentary was intriguing and, of course, we did our homework — and the work that Tracy has done was just so amazing. It was the trust that we were able to put in her hands for four-and-a-half years of her following us around, filming us, seeing the bad sides as well as the good sides, and not knowing what was going to be the story.”
An important message that Tragos wants to get across with this film is that activists shouldn’t be afraid. When a curious Texas-based filmmaker asks what she can do to put activists who want to help, but are afraid of getting arrested, at ease, activist Elisa Wells replies: “I’d say there have been no arrests. That’s one of the things we need to acknowledge, which is that there is a lot of fear-mongering going on. They’re trying to scare the hell out of all of us. But, in fact, there have not been arrests and we need to keep pushing the envelope and make the pills available in every way we can.”
In another powerful scene of the documentary, Coeytaux takes on the Lone Star state directly saying, “No fucking way is Texas going to be the one who gets me to stop talking about what I know is a justice issue.”
“It’s a new world now. We have power. We have a way to fight back because we know that the people of our country are behind us,” Coeytaux stresses to the audience during the live Q&A. “We need to just keep this movement rolling with the knowledge that we don’t really need to be afraid. You all need to know what one of the providers said once: Behind each one of us, there’s ten, and behind each of them, there’s another 100.”