Documentaries

This Real-Life 'Handmaid's Tale' Makes for One of the Year's Most Compelling Documentaries

"Birthright: A War Story" follows two unlikely victims in the war on reproductive choice.

Photo Credit: Tamarkin Productions / Abramorama

The new feature documentary, "Birthright: A War Story," chronicles the stories of some of the war on choice's most unlikely victims, beginning with two expectant parents from Nebraska. 

"We were getting [our son] to bed, and I felt something funny," Danielle Deaver says in the film.

Deaver and her husband Rob rushed to the hospital, where they were told that Deaver's water had broken, and the lack of amniotic fluid would prevent her child's lungs from developing.

"The odds of bringing a baby home with a heartbeat were less than 10 percent," she recalls.

Deaver urged the perinatologist to induce labor, only to be informed that doing so would be illegal.

"Unfortunately, the Nebraska legislature had passed a 20-week fetal-pain bill, which, if any provider participated in an abortion after 20 weeks, it was a felony charge and your license could potentially be taken away from you," says Todd Pankratz, president of the Nebraska Medical Association. "The legislature will see any elective delivery of a baby that is non-viable as being an abortion."

The Deavers' daughter was born 10 days later, and died shortly thereafter. 

Watch the trailer:

"What we are seeing in the U.S. is the religious right having incredible influence on this government," director Civia Tamarkin told AlterNet of the nationwide push to chip away at Roe v. Wade. "We saw that 'The Handmaid's Tale' was coming out and we couldn't help but see the parallels." 

Nearly 50 anti-choice bills passed in 2015, and an additional 60 in 2016. This year, President Trump's Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price welcomed a move to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding for services ranging from STD testing to cervical cancer screenings. 

"What you're seeing now is an administration that is supporting efforts that is going on in states, and it is starting at the top and it is only going to get more codified," added co-executive producer Luchina Fisher. 

"The reason I wanted to do this film was on the heels of Hobby Lobby," said Tamarkin. "I was shocked that women did not boycott Hobby Lobby. You need this activism again; you need a generation that is going to become enraged."

Tamarkin and Fisher see the film as a call to arms in the war on reproductive rights that has escalated in recent years. The filmmakers have partnered with Picturemotion, which allows viewers to send video messages to their representatives about the issues highlighted in the film. 

"We want people to actually begin monitoring what is happening in their legislatures," said Tamarkin. "These [anti-choice] bills are all passing with very little resistance [because] you have a generation that has basically been complacent."

"I never thought we'd be going backward," she added. "Certainly when you obtain reproductive freedom, you move on to other issues and become blindsided. Meanwhile the opposition was building a war machine." 

"Birthright: A War Story" is now playing.

Watch an exclusive clip:

Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.

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