Film Pulse Score

Release Date: July 14, 2017
Director: Civia Tamarkin
MPAA Rating: NR
Runtime: 105 Minutes

Perhaps one of the most divisive – if not the most divisive – issue in modern American politics is that of abortion. With interviews of advocates from both sides of the reproductive health debates, Birthright: A War Story looks at the history of abortion, recent and ongoing legislation, and the ways in which bureaucracy is wedging itself into the private lives of American citizens.

Civia Tamarkin’s story about women being jailed, physically violated and put at the risk of dying while a radical movement tightens its grip across the country is a compelling documentary that is a must-see, even if you don’t have a strong stance on abortion. Consider this fact alone: The U.S. has the highest maternal death rate among developed countries, which is horrifying, especially considering that it’s not necessary.

Clocking in at a brief 105 minutes, Birthright: A War Story examines “the moral authority” and how the movement has changed since Roe v. Wade, often unsuspectingly, for the more than six million people who become pregnant each year in the U.S.

The filmmakers highlight the many of the “casualties” of the war over abortion, interviewing several women who suffered as a result of unnecessary or even damaging federal and state legislation that had nothing to do with them or their partners seeking out abortions. They had fallen through the proverbial cracks, which seem to be widening more and more.

Tamarkin and team explore everything from the dangers of being pregnant and putting one’s body through a traumatic or unsafe birth to women needing medical help to complete a devastating miscarriage when her body cannot do it alone but being prevented from getting that lifesaving care. They show how, increasingly, states and religious-led institutions are “policing the womb,” causing low-income parents and those who rely on government-funded health care to make awful choices that can land them in jail or can even be deadly.

The irony, which is touched on some (but not enough in this writer’s opinion) in this doc, is that the well curated propaganda is seemingly having the exact opposite of its intended effects, causing more child deaths and even increased deaths among mothers, whose children become motherless if they are sent to jail or die.

There’s no doubt that both sides are passionate and well meaning, but when women are searching for alternative and dangerous measures to end pregnancies, giving birth in unsafe locations and avoiding licensed healthcare centers because they cannot have a child within their existing means, something more must be done.

Whether you think you need to be more educated about these issues or not, seeing this film is important because, as the filmmakers show, even well meaning people who don’t understand the ramifications of their overly-narrow stances can do more harm than good.

Birthright: A War Story review
Date Published: 07/13/2017
7 / 10 stars