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Will this fantastic documentary about abortion and life change hearts and minds?

The Matter of Life is a powerful film that has the potential to sway hearts and minds. But although I am hopeful, I am also skeptical.

A screenshot from the trailer for "The Matter of Life" (

MPAA Rating: Not rated at the time of this review
USCCB Rating: Not rated at the time of this review
Reel Rating: 4 out of 5 reels

In just nine months, on January 22, 2023, the United States will mark the 50th year since Roe v. Wade effectively made abortion legal in the United States. It is an event that will not go smoothly and has the potential to make the January 6th riot look like a mild Canadian disagreement.

The Matter of Life is a fantastic new documentary on pro-life philosophy and tactics that has the potential to sway hearts and minds away from a catastrophic future and towards “a more perfect union.” That could happen. But although I am hopeful, I am also skeptical.

The documentary begins by framing key questions, especially “What is the unborn?” So many life issues would be resolved if this could be defined. Using biology, physiology, and logic, the first twenty minutes effectively demonstrates that the unborn are not only human but contain the same ontological qualities of humans in any stage of life outside the womb. Thus, if any and all human persons have rights, so do the unborn. Our knowledge in the past was somewhat limited by lack of more precise knowledge, but when doctors can now perform heart surgery on a twenty-week-old fetus, there really is no way to ignore the truth.

The film really hits its stride when it discusses the most effective “threats” against the abortion industry. The first is women. By now, it is a well-established fact that the early suffragettes including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Seaton saw abortion as a violation of women’s basic dignity. What I didn’t know was that NARAL, the largest abortion lobby, was founded by two men, one of whom was an outspoken advocate of population control. Indeed, the first major publication to endorse legal abortion was not The New York Times but Playboy Magazine.

When the National Organization of Woman (NOW) announced shortly after Roe that it supported the decision, a third of its board resigned in protest. They continue to fight for all women through organizations that provide a myriad of prenatal and postnatal care that Planned Parenthood completely neglects.

The second threat, which has become extraordinarily potent in the last decade or so, are former abortion workers. This movement started with former PP director Abby Johnson’s excellent memoir Unplanned and now includes hundreds. The Matter of Life focuses on Dr. Anthony Levatino, a surgeon who performed abortions for twenty years. He describes the various procedures with clinical precision, accompanied by animations that are direct but not unnecessarily graphic.

In late-term operations, during which he had to count the body parts, Levatino would briefly look away so he wouldn’t have to see the face. After years of infertility, when his family was finally able have a child, he was forced to “face” the reality—and so he left the practice forever.

There are many other wonderful moments and quotes. My personal favorite section was about the economics of the pro-choice industry. Abortion is always profitable – for the doctor, the nurses, the insurance companies, and the government. Pro-life work always costs something:  medical care, formula, counseling, clothing, diapers, and more. Which is more compassionate?

Despite the film’s fine work, I nonetheless was left troubled.

Who is this documentary for? These reasons, while brilliantly illustrated, have been around for generations. There is no longer a lack of scientific knowledge, moral reasoning, or legal pondering. The current pro-choice argument seems to be “Shut up and let us do what we want!” There’s no reasonable response that will break through such extreme irrationalism.

When I started writing this review, the end of Roe seemed a long way off. But as I write these final lines, a draft has been leaked of a Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe. Based on the response, I’ll be praying for all the justices’ safety and avoiding metropolitan areas in the months to come.

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About Nick Olszyk 189 Articles
Nick Olszyk teaches theology at Marist Catholic High School in Eugene, Oregon. He was raised on bad science fiction movies, jelly beans, and TV shows that make fun of bad science fiction movies. Visit him online at his website, Catholic Cinema Crusade.


  1. We read: “What I didn’t know was that NARAL, the largest abortion lobby, was founded by two men, one of whom was an outspoken advocate of population control.”

    While we’re at it, a very successful former abortion czar (and later convert), Dr. Bernard Nathanson, disclosed that the original abortion agenda was also very much about discrediting the Church. Insider Nathanson revealed that the:

    “[…] anti-Catholic warp was a central strategy, a keystone of the abortion movement. It was, in a sense, the self-fulfilling prophecy: knowing that the Catholic Church would vigorously oppose abortion we laced the campaign with generous dollops of anti-Catholicism, and once the monster was lured out of the cave in response to the abortion challenge and the nakedly biased line we could make the Catholic Church the point man of the opposition. The more vigorously the church opposed, the stronger the appeal of the anti-Catholic line became to the liberal media, to the northeastern political establishment, to the leftist elements of the Protestant Church, and to Catholic intellectuals themselves” (The Abortion Papers: Inside the Abortion Mentality, 1983; 196).

    But, then, along comes Weathervane-Catholic President Biden, with prayerful eyes wide shut, not to mention Aztec-Catholic Pelosi for whom late-term abortions are “sacred ground.”

    thank God that even if the above one does not make the expected impact ( yet, The Lord to bless the good will and efforts of those involved ) there are other efforts including the metaverse apostolate …
    Can see how same could be in collaboration with exorcists for themes such as the ways in which the enemy spirits are invited in allowing them to have ownership, its impact as fears, hatreds and rebellions with the hidden idols ruling over the thoughts and lives that lead to wrong decisions ..
    to be countered in the grace and power given us such as in the Immaculate Conception – Bl.Mother in loving exchange with the Holy Trinity ,sending forth waves and oceans of love, adoration as well as shedding tears of sorrow – those graces for each of us too , thus seeing our sacredness from the very beginning , in belonging to an all holy and powerful Mother …to desire to bring down the demonic kingdoms that are empowered with every satanic sacrifice , preceded by the false gods of Asmodeus , all the related ones that ruled the hearts in pagan times , its impact in devastations both interiorly and all around, as roots of many other disorders, cancers and addictions, wars , identity issues, family discords , nature itself rebelling ..
    to contrast with the great good and power of the Holy Mass and Sacraments- how the unholy soul ties through media are broken, innnumerable souls in purgatory are released ..

    Thank God that The Church has been well prepared with the deeper understandings needed in many of these areas in our times, Holy Father too inviting all , not just the ‘holy ‘ ones, to dialogue with respect and charity to help each other to cherish the dreams and promise of the Reign of the Divine Will, in hearts and nations ..

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