The story, which I thought of as the Alamo of abortion rights, was heating up. Sometimes there were other documentary crews or photographers around, muscling in. But Maisie outstayed them. As a writer, I had it a little easier. I went down in November. I stayed in a cheap hotel, ate mostly Doritos, reported intensively, and left. My access was fantastic—my collaborator had effectively blazed a path, and all I had to do was ask the right questions.

As we were finishing the project in the days before Roe vs. Wade’s 40th anniversary, the situation at the clinic became even more extreme. Pro-life protesters descended on Jackson holding a casket reputed to contain a real fetus. Real children (of pro-lifers) carried it. There were pro-choice activists too, making the battle fiercer. Maisie stopped by to see the protests but was mostly editing the film in her friend’s apartment in Jackson, sleeping four hours a night, cutting on a laptop with seven hard drives daisy-chained together at her friend’s dining-room table. She slept on a small bed in the kitchendining room. She’s still down there, six months after she first arrived, waiting for the judge’s decision.

UPDATE, January 30: Maisie has since left Mississippi.

 

Alissa Quart is a CJR columnist and contributing editor. She is the author of two books, Branded and Hothouse Kids. Her third, about American outsiders, comes out in 2013. She is also senior editor of The Atavist and an adjunct professor at Columbia Journalism School.