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Birthright: A War Story     cover photo

Birthright: A War Story 2017


Distributed by Women Make Movies, 115 W. 29th Street, Suite 1200,New York, NY, 10001; 212-925-0606
Produced by Civia Tamarkin
Directed by Civia Tamarkin
DVD, color, 88 min.

College - General Adult
Women, Health, Abortion

Date Entered: 11/05/2018

Reviewed by Mary Northrup, Metropolitan Community College-Maple Woods, Kansas City, Missouri

From the opening sequence of faces of young women that fade into each other to the ending, which relates what happened to some of the women in the film, Birthright concentrates on what is happening to women as reproductive rights are restricted.

Many experts appear, such as medical doctors, reproductive rights workers, academics, politicians, and conservative organizers, as well as women and men who have been affected by these restrictions, to explain the main point of the movie, which is that conservative and religious groups have worked and are working to deprive women of their rights through state law. This includes access to abortion, but also covers birth control and childbirth choices. Archival footage of rallies, news programs, and speeches bring in the historical events needed for complete understanding. Newspaper articles and old photographs, including a very graphic representation of abortion, also appear.

Because of the length of the film, the filmmakers can go into depth on all aspects of this topic. They do a good job of explaining the way that politics and religion combine in this controversial issue. Ample footage shows both sides, but the film is definitely pro-choice. The placement of one side vs. the other side in film clips makes the arguments very clear.

The violence that has occurred at clinics is covered. International aspects are touched upon briefly in one segment where a woman tells her story in Spanish with English subtitles. Personal stories come up throughout the film, including several of women arrested for endangering a child because of drugs they inadvertently took. The merger of hospitals, contributing to women having fewer options, is also explained.

This comprehensive look at the issue of women’s reproductive rights will likely be cheered by viewers who agree with its viewpoint and condemned by those who do not. But for those not aware of the strategy of chipping away at state laws, this film may be eye-opening. In addition, young people who do not know the history of women in America in regards to these rights will find it informative.

An obvious placement of this film would be in women’s studies classes at colleges and universities. Other classes that deal with women’s history or medical history or even politics may be interested. Public libraries may also consider this for their collections.

For an issue that people feel very strongly about, this well-made film shows one side and will appeal to those who feel the same. The opposing side is not criticized openly, but the facts and the stories presented confirm the point that the filmmakers set out to do.