Review: ‘Birthright: A War Story’ chronicles the attack on women’s health and reproductive rights
More than 40 years after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, the Supreme Court decision remains a rallying cry on both sides of the still-raging debate over reproductive rights. But as Civia Tamarkin’s documentary makes alarmingly clear, it’s on the sidelines that the anti-abortion movement has waged its battle, state by state, clinic by clinic, chipping away at women’s healthcare options, safety and autonomy. The war story that “Birthright” traces is a war of attrition.
Longtime journalist Tamarkin lays out a few decades’ worth of history with a pointed artlessness, and at first the doc feels like a recap as argument, unlikely to galvanize anyone. But through its haunting firsthand accounts, it becomes a wake-up call for people on both sides of the argument.
What makes it not just instructive but essential is Tamarkin’s focus on what she calls the war’s collateral damage: women caught up, in absurd and shocking ways, in restrictions that favor the unborn over the already living — what one advocate of abortion rights calls the “policing of the womb.”
A married couple share the horrors they endured as a direct result of Nebraska’s 20-week abortion ban, predicated on questionable science and leading a wave of similar legislation. The implications extend far beyond abortion, and in paradoxical ways for those who claim to want government out of healthcare. With its chilling evidence of fetus-centric policies in practice, “Birthright” shows Big Brother in action, and at his most misogynistic.
‘Birthright: A War Story’
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; also July 29-30, Art Theatre, Long Beach
The complete guide to home viewing
Get Screen Gab for weekly recommendations, analysis, interviews and irreverent discussion of the TV and streaming movies everyone’s talking about.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.