I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
Do you know what the landmark 1973 United States Supreme Court decision in the case of Roe v. Wade is all about? It seems like an easy question, but as we see in the enraging and incredibly necessary documentary Birthright: A War Story, many young American women do not know that it secured their legal right across the country to have an abortion. Tougher question: Do you know that, if you’re a female patient at a Catholic hospital in the US with a reproductive-related medical issue, a bishop may get final say over a doctor regarding your care? I did not know this, and I thought I was well informed about all the abuse women suffer in America.
It’s difficult, in fact, to keep up with all the ways that women’s rights, agency, and bodily autonomy are under attack in the US, which is why documentarian Civia Tamarkin put together this devastating rundown. From how religious fundamentalists hijacked the Republican party — starting in the late 70s with Ronald Reagan (who pivoted from signer of a very liberal abortion bill as governor of California to pro-life presidential candidate) — to 2010’s triumph of the extremely conservative Tea Party in national elections and continuing to today’s “personhood” movement, which seeks to grant a legal right to life from conception, Birthright demonstrates how women have become the “collateral damage” in the culture wars that have been raging in the country for the past 40 years. It’s not just about restricting access to abortion but also criminalizing miscarriage and stillbirth, forced C-sections, eliminating meaningful sex education, redefining contraception as abortion (and hence worthy of denying to women), defunding Planned Parenthood and all of the essential care it offers, and so much more. It will have your blood boiling.
Replete with outrageous stories about the impact on real women of these regressive policies — such as Danielle Deaver (pictured above with her husband, Robb), who nearly died because she was denied appropriate care after a very-much-wanted pregnancy went wrong — Birthright is an infuriating look at the horrendous exploitation of American women. We can no longer assume that our own bodies belong to us, but instead to politicians, doctors, and priests who don’t understand science or medicine but hate us, who treat us like children, who don’t think we can be trusted to know what’s best for ourselves and for our families. (These are mostly men, though there are a few anti-woman women here, too.) One expert observer calls what is happening “a public health crisis,” but it’s a moral one, too, when what it amounts to is treating women as less than fully human.