Birthright: A War Story Fights for Reproductive Rights


The movie exposes the debate surrounding reproductive rights and the problems facing women.

Caylea Barone, Maroon-News Staff

On January 26, people across the Colgate and Hamilton communities gathered in Golden Auditorium for the film screening of Birthright: A War Story, a film cosponsored by the Lampert Institute, the Dean of the College, Women’s Studies and the Sociology & Anthropology departments. The 2017 documentary, directed by Civia Tamarkin, traces the legacy of the legal and cultural battleground of abortion in the United States. Six women feature in the documentary as they share their stories of physical violation, unlawful jailing and exposure to unnecessary health risks. Tamarkin offers several viewpoints and angles throughout the film by including groups of people with varying beliefs, such as the leader of the National Right for Life movement, Catholic health nuns, women’s reproductive rights advocates and public health and law doctors. The combination of perspectives and articulated beliefs throughout the documentary seamlessly presents an accurate representation of the divisive troubles surrounding abortion issues.

Birthright brings several social issues to the table, thoroughly exploring the intersectionality of the health, culture and legal crises women are facing. Initially, the film argues that the crusade to “protect” pregnant women of certain races and classes is creating and contributing to a public health crisis in the United States. The movie discusses some of the challenges to the landmark constitutional cases and protections of women in the United States, such as the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.

Furthermore, this feature film tells the upsetting story of women who have become collateral damage in the aggressive and radical campaign that is tightening its grip on the United States; Birthright explores the lack of transparency that government, religious, and medical supporters of the Pro Life movement are utilizing to take control of reproductive health care. The movie opposes allowing states, courts, religious institutions and doctrines to decide whether, when, how and in what way women will bear children. Reproductive rights that are being taken away from women are human rights that are crumbling under the hand of the few in power. 

Additionally, Birthright deeply explores the strength of the Anti-Choice movement to control pregnant women and the ensuing landslide that is creating a true public health crisis. The film sites many statistics of rising maternal mortality rates in the United States. Startlingly, it is safer to give birth in some third world and developing countries than in certain areas of the United States.

Criminalizing women’s health and their right to have access to contraceptives and basic health care services still occurs in 2018. Birthright presents the personal narratives of women who have faced unlawful prosecution for “offenses” such as miscarriage and pregnancies that naturally failed to go to term; these unfortunate stories are shared for others to realize that the increasing slew of abortion and reproduction rights and restrictions have fatal consequences that were intended by their creators. 

Tamarkin’s film is a must see for all; these issues should be spoken about and understood to further encourage a movement towards safe, unstigmatized women’s health care and protection in the United States and the world.

Contact Caylea Barone at [email protected].