Should the government have the power to override a woman’s constitutional rights during pregnancy? That question is examined in PERSONHOOD, Jo Ardinger’s feature documentary directorial debut. This urgent and timely film explores the criminalization and targeting of pregnant women as seen through the eyes of a young mother swept up in dangerous new laws.
See the World Premiere of PERSONHOOD at DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival. The films screens as part of the festival’s “New World Order” section on Friday, Nov. 8 at 7:15 p.m. at Cinépolis Chelsea, and has an encore on Thursday, Nov. 14 at 10:45 a.m. at Cinépolis Chelsea.
With the rise of the “fetal personhood” movement, comes dangerous new laws that treat pregnant women as second-class citizens. This widening web of laws encourages the surveillance, policing and criminalization and targeting of women during pregnancy. As a result, prosecutions of women for miscarriages, stillbirths and using drugs while pregnant are becoming widespread. PERSONHOOD brings the human impact of these policies into the light through the story of Tamara (“Tammy”) Loertscher, a rural Wisconsin mother who was jailed after telling her doctor about her occasional preconception drug use.
The film follows Tammy’s story after her incarceration as she rebuilds her life and fights to overturn Wisconsin’s ‘Unborn Child Protection Act.’ Like a moment from the chilling “Handmaid’s Tale,” Tammy’s fetus was given an attorney, while the courts denied Tammy her constitutional rights. Tammy is forced to challenge a Wisconsin law that invaded her privacy, her right to due process, and her body sovereignty. At the intersection of the erosion of women’s rights, the war on drugs and mass incarceration, Tammy’s experience reveals the dangerous consequences of these little-known laws for American women and families.
PERSONHOOD features interviews with leading advocates of women’s reproductive health rights. Lynn Paltrow is the founder of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), an organization that works to ensure that no one loses their constitutional or human rights as a result of pregnancy. Sara Ainsworth is the former Director of Legal Advocacy at NAPW and was part of Tammy’s early legal team. Sara is now the Policy and Legal Director at If/When/How and continues to advocate for the rights of pregnant women. Freya Bowen is an attorney with Perkins Coie and was an integral part of Tammy’s legal team in Wisconsin. Cherisse Scott is the founder and CEO of SisterReach, a reproductive justice organization in Tennessee that works to educate and empower women and girls of color. Cristina Aguilar is the former Executive Director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR). Aguilar is now the founder and president of Aguilar Strategies. The film also includes Arthur Caplan, PhD, a leading bioethicist and the founding head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU School of Medicine in New York City. And on the opposing side of the debate, Gualberto Garcia-Jones is the former legal analyst for Personhood USA, the organization behind placing dozens of “fetal personhood” amendments on state ballots across the country and he now serves as president of the Personhood Alliance, as well as with Keith Mason, the founder of Personhood USA.
“After learning about the ‘fetal personhood’ movement, I felt both terrified and compelled, and I knew I needed to tell this underreported story that was playing out in the shadows of the divisive abortion debate,” said PERSONHOOD director Jo Ardinger. “Tammy’s story deeply affected me. I saw an introverted human being willing to stand up to power, and it inspired me. The film calls for a necessary shift in dialog that looks beyond abortion and focuses on the far-reaching impacts of anti-choice efforts on women who have no intention of ending their pregnancies.”
Filmmaker Jo Ardinger – Director/Producer/Editor is the founder of Tandybrook Productions. Her new reproductive justice documentary, PERSONHOOD, explores the growing criminalization and targeting and policing of pregnant women in America. This film is Jo’s feature directorial debut. An active part of the Seattle film community, Jo is a director and award-winning editor working in both documentary and narrative. Recent documentary editing credits include Beyond the Visible: The Story of the Very Large Array, narrated by Jodi Foster (Media Interpretive Award, Cine Golden Eagle, Telly); and the PBS documentary, Into Deepest Space: The Birth of the ALMA Observatory. Other work includes additional editing credit on Imba Means Sing (Best Humanitarian Documentary, Global Film Awards, 2016), and the Discovery HD series, Fantastic Festivals of the World. Ardinger is also an instructor at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she teaches digital storytelling in science.
Rosalie Miller – Producer is an award-winning filmmaker, actor and co-founder of Wanderhouse. She produces commercial video, branded content and narrative and documentary film. She is currently in production on her second short documentary, Worth My Salt, a 2017 GAP Award recipient and 2016 4Culture Artist Award recipient. Her documentary short debut, The Things We Keep, premiered at the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival and was picked up by Alaska Airlines and KCTS9 Reel NW. She also serves as a producer on the feature-length documentary, PERSONHOOD, recent winner of a 2018 CityArtists Project Grant. Other awards include: WIF Seattle Professional Grant, AmDocs Film Fund Grant, and an Arts Project Award with 4Culture. Rosalie is a member of Women Make Movies, Seattle Documentary Association and Women in Film Seattle.