USA 2017: A documentary about what happens when the rights to the uterus becomes the subject of a political and religious power struggle, and those who actually own the uterus becomes the victim of the struggle.

The documentary Birthright: A War Story looks closer at American women’s long struggle for the right to decide over their own bodies. Even though the struggle for women’s right to abortion was won with “Roe vs. Wade” in 1973, the anti-abortion campaign has only increased in intensity since then, in accordance with a general trend in which conservatives have achieved power at the local, state and, with time, federal levels of government.

A neglected struggle to Norwegian observers

Since 2010 no less than 300 restrictions against women’s reproductive rights have been passed by states around the US.
According to the documentary the US has the highest maternal mortality rates in the West, and they keep rising in tandem with America’s lurch towards the right. The right-wing Tea Party movement has experienced enormous growth, and one of their key rallying points has been precisely the fight against abortion.

Till now we’ve closed our eyes to what’s been going on in the US; perhaps because we don’t dare think of what the end result may be, or because the consequences can become so dire for women that we can’t even process it. I’m a woman and a feminist, but not even I have understood this campaign in anything more than superficial terms (i.e. watching footage of how doctors and patients at abortion clinics have been harassed, and in some cases even murdered).

Life begins at…?

What I haven’t noticed is how the conservative raft of legislation, in its eagerness to promote the rights of the foetus, is simultaneously dismantling women’s rights. This is a difficult dilemma, and much of it boils down to when a foetus should be regarded as human being (or indeed as a person) and thus enjoy the rights accorded to humans. Is it at conception or at a later point during the pregnancy? At what point during a pregnancy should a woman lose the sovereignty over her own body? The religious and conservative groups vehemently argue that life begins at conception. Which brings us to the present situation, where the violations of women’s rights and the negative consequences they entail are becoming increasingly glaring.

«In poor areas people often only have access to clinics run by religious charities, which “can’t” offer abortion, prevention or sterilization services.»

It’s no longer only about abortion. It’s also about prevention and access to adequate medical care during a woman’s pregnancy. It’s about the right to make your own choice; about not being forced to choose based on what health services are available in your area. A woman in the documentary recounts how she’s been forced to perform a caesarean even though she wanted a natural birth no less than three times. The last time she was rolled into the operating room without having signed a paper of consent; the hospital threatened had to threaten her with judicil consquences in order to have the caesarean performed.

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