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By Lorry Kikta | November 17, 2019

On the bleak plus side of this coin, if an expecting mother is abused or gets hit by a drunk driver, the assailant could be charged with manslaughter or worse. On the minus side, we have what happened to Wisconsin native Tamara Loertscher. Tammy had life long issues with her thyroid. After losing her job, she lost access to her synthetic thyroid medication, which helped regulate her hormones instead of an actual thyroid. With no affordable access to the medication, she self-medicated with meth. This was not the best choice, but she made it and learned from her mistakes whenever she discovered she was pregnant. Upon disclosing her past to her doctor at her first pregnancy visit, things took a dark turn. Wisconsin charged her with child maltreatment, and when she refused to enter a drug rehab facility that she didn’t need since she was no longer using drugs, she was put in jail for 30 days, of which she spent 18, never receiving any prenatal care the entire time. Personhood follows Tammy on her journey to clear her name and record.

Additionally, it shows us the efforts of people such as Cherisse Scott, based out of Tennessee, and the founder of Sisterreach. Her organization focuses on all aspects of reproductive health advocacy for women of color, but during their existence, they have risen to the occasion of fighting the very anti-woman legislation that came out of Tennessee. Targeting pregnant women who are fighting drug addiction, claiming it is fetal assault. While no one is saying that it’s a good idea to be on drugs while pregnant, Cherisse Scott and many others, including myself, believe that the problem lies within the health care system. If addiction were treated as a sickness, and doctors observed doctor-patient confidentiality, then these women could have healthy babies. Personhood also has us hear from two men behind the Personhood movement, who are trying to help pass motion No. 67 in Colorado. Keith Mason and Gualberto Garcia-Jones are adamant about spreading the word of their cause. While these two are trying to get the motion passed, the entire Planned Parenthood team in Colorado is trying to make sure it isn’t passed.

“…NOT a pro-abortion documentary. It is a pro-woman documentary.”

There’s a lot of political relevance flying around in Personhood. Jo Ardinger manages to get some extremely well-informed speakers on the legal and sociopolitical ramifications of these laws all over the U.S. which debate personhood, while also telling the very personal story of Tammy Loertscher. Tammy becomes an advocate herself through her experience, speaking with the United Nations and attending the One Million Woman March at the outset of Trump’s presidency. There’s no subtlety in this film’s political agenda, although I do greatly respect Ardinger having voices from the opposing side, no matter how I may feel about them.

Personhood is NOT a pro-abortion documentary. It is a pro-woman documentary. Just like everyone who is pro-choice is not necessarily pro-abortion; a law that protects a woman’s right to have one doesn’t mean that the people who made it think people should just be out killing babies all day. It’s all far more nuanced than that, and Ardinger deftly explores these nuances with her film. As someone who is very much an advocate for women’s rights—mostly because I am one, but also because I think all humans should be treated equally–this resonated with me very much. What I always hope when I see a documentary like this is that someone from the other side of the aisle will watch Personhood and perhaps take a glimpse into the logic of the opposing side’s argument. It’s debatable as to whether or not that will happen, but here’s hoping.

Personhood (2019)

Directed and Written: Jo Ardinger

Starring: Tamara Loertscher, Cherisse Scott, Sara Ainsworth, Freya Bowen, Lynn Paltrow, Keith Mason, etc.

Movie score: 6/10

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"…upon disclosing her past to her doctor at her first pregnancy visit, things took a dark turn."

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