Everything that comes before and after McCorvey’s “deathbed confession” is engineered to serve the big twist—that her pro-life conversion in the 1990s was an act. She did it, she says, pugnacity and defiance writ plain on her face, for the money. Ta-da! Sweeney the magician pulls the tablecloth from under the neatly set pro-life narrative. The abortion-friendly press goes wild.
Lest we miss the point, there’s an immediate replay, screen juddering to underscore the significance of McCorvey’s admission. The camera then cuts to lingering reactions from pro-choice representatives. Gloria Allred gasps. Frustrated tears well in abortion activist Charlotte Taft’s eyes.
But how real is this? McCorvey herself gives us reason to question. By her own self-assessment, she delights in provoking dramatic responses. The obvious solution, then, would have been for Sweeney to show McCorvey the footage of Allred’s and Taft’s responses and record her reaction closely. Instead, he allows her to keep striking swaggering poses, without cross-examination.
“I was the big fish.” “I’m a good actress.” “I like attention.” These kinds of statements are common to the confessional booth on reality shows like The Bachelor, but we expect more from a documentary. Sweeney never probes the places where McCorvey’s bravado is inconsistent with her actions.