The Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that guaranteed abortion access across the U.S., appears likely to galvanize advocates for reproductive freedom and jolt the midterm elections.
The renewed debate over abortion rights has also inspired many people to seek out media that explores the nearly 50-year sociopolitical fight over Roe.
In recent years, filmmakers and television producers have closely examined the legacy of Roe, documenting how the 1973 ruling reshaped millions of lives — and turned into one of the defining culture war battlegrounds.
Here's a look at some of the films and shows that put the national discussion around Roe in deeper historical context, connecting the past to the present in illuminating ways. (The titles are listed alphabetically.)
In the spring of 2009, Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was killed in the foyer of his Wichita church. The gunman, who was later convicted, claimed he shot the doctor to save the lives of unborn children. In the 2013 documentary "After Tiller," Martha Shane and Lana Wilson survey the aftermath of the killing, focusing on four doctors who they describe as the last in the U.S. to openly perform third-trimester abortions. The film starkly underscores the intensity of the modern abortion debate.
Where to stream: Fandor, Kanopy, OVID.tv, Topic and Tubi
In this new HBO documentary, Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes chronicle the Jane Collective, a group of women who joined together to help women obtain illegal abortions in the 1960s and early '70s. The film features interviews with some of the surviving "Janes," who reflect on their risky undertakings in the years before Roe altered the legal landscape. "The Janes" debuted at Sundance along with Phyllis Nagy’s "Call Jane," a fictional treatment of the collective (starring Elizabeth Banks) due in theaters this fall.
Where to stream: HBO Max
In this nine-episode miniseries, Cate Blanchett delivers a bravura performance as conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, a staunch opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment, gay rights and abortion. "Mrs. America" is not about Roe v. Wade, strictly speaking, but the series dramatizes the backlash against the progressive gains of the 1960s and '70s — a movement that helped lay the groundwork for the "Reagan revolution," the rise of the religious right, and today's conservative-leaning Supreme Court.
Where to stream: Hulu
Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg ("Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work") chart the historical events that preceded and followed Roe, with a particular focus on how the decision helped polarize American politics and fueled the culture wars over "wedge issues" and other divisive topics. "Reversing Roe" features interviews from leaders on both sides of the debate, including feminist trailblazer Gloria Steinem (who is portrayed by Rose Byrne in "Mrs. America," incidentally) and National Right to Life president Carol Tobias.
Where to stream: Netflix
"Supreme Revenge: Battle for the Court"
The essential PBS documentary franchise Frontline has investigated the sociopolitical skirmishes around abortion rights for decades, most recently in this in-depth look at the Republican effort to reshape the ideological makeup of the Supreme Court, culminating with the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett just days before the 2020 election. "Supreme Revenge" is a succinct but thorough examination of how conservatives secured the 6-3 majority that has now overturned Roe.
Where to stream: PBS and YouTube