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What a New Anti-Anti-Abortion Documentary Gets Wrong


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In Birthright: A War Story, the filmmakers take on the pro-life movement not as it is but as they imagine it.

Madeleine Kearns

July 22, 2017


According to a new feature-length documentary, Birthright: A War Story, “women are being jailed, physically violated, and even put at risk of dying as a radical movement tightens its grip across America.” This radical movement is the pro-life, religious Right, which, we are led to believe, is intent on stripping women of their most basic rights.

It might seem like the same old story, but this time there’s a greater sense of urgency. In Birthright, we are told that abortion restrictions are not only on the rise but are also symptoms of a much bigger, more terrifying problem: institutionalized misogyny, a “real-life Handmaid’s Tale.”

Birthright is therefore a call to arms, a “women need you” propaganda piece. And so it argues that the pro-choice position is essential for any woman who considers herself a feminist. But as Birthright vilifies its opponents in the narrative of Pro-life v. Women, it ignores one important fact: Many of those who oppose abortion are women.

Nevertheless, we hear that the force driving the pro-life movement is both oppressive and systemic. By quoting pro-life leaders selectively, focusing on their strategies rather than their underlying principles, Birthright constructs a terrifying strawman while tactically evading the real point of contention: abortion itself.







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