Hollywood actresses and the media and applauding a Netflix documentary for representing women and showing “both sides” of the abortion debate. The film indeed starred women – but it wasn’t from both sides.
Netflix released a new original documentary concerning abortion, Reversing Roe, on Sept. 13. The film centered on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the U.S. on a federal level. While Hollywood actresses, including executive producer Eva Longoria, applauded the film in the name of women, Reversing Roe largely silenced the voices of pro-life women.
But the streaming giant took no notice and instead praised its new film for “telling the whole story” in a press release. Similarly, filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg agreed they wanted to “tell both sides” in multiple interviews. Media outlets, from The New York Times to CNN, followed suit.
In Hollywood, the support for the film largely began Sept. 4, the date of the trailer’s release. Longoria tweeted out, “Now more than ever are these issues critical towards preserving Women’s rights.”
That caught the eye of Reese Witherspoon, who also highlighted that this film was imperative for women. She urged in response that “It’s a critical time to discuss #WomensRights.”
“Thank you @evalongoria and team for shining a light on the importance of a woman’s right to make decisions for herself,” Tracee Ellis Ross similarly typed Sept. 6. Ten days later, she added, “It’s especially important now as women’s rights are in grave danger.”
Rosario Dawson chimed in for women also Sept. 17 and told her followers to “watch this trailer for Reversing Roe depicting the state of abortion and women’s rights in America.”
There was just one problem: instead of representing women, the documentary misrepresented them. While the filmmakers included 13 women who supported abortion in their documentary, they only aired one interview with a pro-life woman, National Right to Life President Carol Tobias. The discrepancy continued, even with men included – the documentary featured more than twice as many abortion supporters than pro-lifers overall.
But the filmmakers had the footage – they just didn’t use it. They interviewed several women who lead nationally recognized pro-life organizations, including Americans United for Life, And Then There Were None, March for Life, New Wave Feminists, and Women Speak for Themselves. Some were interviewed for hours, if not days, by the filmmakers. They didn’t make the cut.
In addition to Hollywood, the discrepancy went unnoticed by media who reviewed the film.
While CNN media critic Brian Lowry admitted Reversing Roe wasn’t perfect, he said of the documentary that there’s “something to be said for bringing perspective to the conversation.” And, he added, the “filmmakers incorporate an array of voices on both sides of the issue” – “to their credit.”
For The New York Times, film critic Ben Kenigsberg wrote that while the “film has been made from a pro-abortion-rights perspective,” it “gives voice to other points of view.”
IndieWire writer Jude Dry added the documentary “aims to help audiences understand what’s at stake if Roe V. Wade were to be overturned, and uncover the motivations of both sides.”
“Both sides” to the same narrative, maybe. But that’s about it.
This isn’t the first time pro-life women have been bypassed by the media, as Catholic Vote has documented. But for Netflix and its filmmakers to claim neutrality and then give viewers something different is not only dishonest, but destructive – to women.