PROVIDENCE — The Diocese of Providence Office of Life and Family Ministry and the Rhode Island State Right to Life Committee will host the Rhode Island premiere of “Roe v. Wade,” a 2021 political legal drama with an all-star cast that portrays a series of events leading up to the infamous United States Supreme Court decision on abortion in early 1973.
The film’s co-writer, producer and director Nick Loeb says “Roe v. Wade” depicts the untold story of how activists manipulated public opinion through the media as they laid the groundwork for the Supreme Court to issue its landmark ruling, one which continues to divide the nation today.
“It’s the most famous court case in American history, and no one’s really made a film on it. I like to say Roe v. Wade is the court case that everyone in America has heard of but nobody really knows anything about,” Loeb said in a telephone interview with Rhode Island Catholic last week from Los Angeles.
“When I started researching it and finding out all the corruption, the lies, all the manipulation of how this happened and was decided, I found it was going to make for a super interesting movie, almost like an Oliver Stone-esque JFK conspiracy movie, so that was my motivation.”
Loeb, who is pro-life, also plays a role in the film. He portrays Dr. Bernard Nathanson, the most outspoken abortion provider of the time period, who teams up with Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, in her initiative called “The Negro Project.”
Working together with feminist Betty Friedan, the film follows the trio as a team of activists begins to search the country for a pregnant girl that they can use to sue the government for her right to have an abortion.
In doing so, they discover Norma McCorvey, a young woman with a 10th grade education, struggling with poverty and other issues. With a legal team assembled around her, McCorvey becomes the infamous Jane Roe as they sue Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas County, giving birth to Roe v. Wade, a case which legalized abortion in the U.S.
Loeb, who co-wrote, directed and produced the film along with Cathy Allyn, did extensive research on the project. He wrote the script over the course of a year, reading more than 40 books, court transcripts and letters, and conducted interviews with many of the individuals who knew people involved in the case.
“We started shooting about two years ago,” he said. “It took about a year between shooting and editing to finish and then COVID hit. We were going to release last year and we just waited.”
Despite the film’s subject matter, which can be polarizing, Loeb said it was not difficult to assemble such a high profile cast for his film.
“The reason it wasn’t difficult was that the film is based on a true story and the roles these actors got to play were famous historical figures,” Loeb said.
“It’s always exciting for actors to be able to play historical figures rather than fictional characters, and since Supreme Court Justices have never really been portrayed on film before like this, I think this is a very unique opportunity for them.”
Among the film’s many stars are Jon Voight, Robert Davi, John Schneider, Corbin Bernsen, Joey Lawrence, Jamie Kennedy, Stacey Dash and Steve Gutenberg.
Loeb said it was an honor for him to work on such an important film with some of Hollywood’s best known actors, many of whom he idolized growing up in the 1980s.
“I was like a kid in a candy store — walking in here were all my heroes that I grew up watching as a little boy on TV and now here I am getting to direct them. Quite honestly, it was really quite a surreal experience, with all of these actors in the same room,” he said.
On a personal level, Loeb said portraying Dr. Nathanson was exciting for him as it was his biggest and most challenging role to date.
“We had a lot of similarities in our life path and so I was able to bring a lot of my own personal experiences to the role. It was an incredible experience,” Loeb said.
Having Cathy Allyn, his collaborator on the project, as his co-director, made it easier for him to cross that threshold from director to actor as needed on any given day of filming.
“It was great to work with her,” Loeb said. “A lot of people have missed the fact this movie was co-written and co-directed by a woman.”
“She not only brought a female perspective to the project;
neither of us had ever directed before. So for the times that I actually had to be onscreen, I had somebody taking over so I could focus on the role.”
Lisa Cooley, coordinator for the diocesan Office of Life and Family Ministry, said it is important that “Roe v. Wade” be shown locally because “it shows the manipulation of the media to change a culture.”
“They used women for profit, and by using compassionate language brainwashed a whole generation into thinking it was good for them and their freedom when in actuality it does the opposite,” Cooley said, noting how the pro-choice movement won’t stop with abortion.
“We see here in Rhode Island abortion on demand up until birth, and we see assisted suicide now being debated at the State House, all for so-called “freedom of choice,” Cooley said.
The fact that Jane Roe and Dr. Nathanson, two key forces once in support of a woman’s right to a legal abortion, both eventually became Catholics and joined the pro-life movement, gives Cooley hope as to the impact that “Roe v. Wade” can have on those who view it.
“The fact that the Catholic Church and the National Right to Life at the time were both very involved and worked hard to stop the legalization of abortion make this effort to show this film between the Office of Life and Family and Rhode Island Right to Life a perfect opportunity to tell the true story,” Cooley said.
Barth E. Bracy, director of Rhode Island Right to Life, which is co-sponsoring the presentation, has had an opportunity to see an advance copy of the film.
“I have screened the film and it is excellent,” Bracy said.
“I was particularly thrilled to see Dr. Mildred Jefferson on the big screen as I was privileged to have spent time with her before she passed. I am told by those old enough to recall these events that the depiction remains faithful to real-life events, even if the story-line has been simplified in places and details omitted to keep it brief enough for a movie.”
Bracy applauds Loeb’s tireless efforts in promoting the film, which he hopes will educate a whole new generation about the way abortion came to be legalized in the U.S.
“The vast majority of Americans have little idea of what Roe v. Wade is or what it did, and no clue whatsoever of the outrageous lies and corruption upon which this ongoing travesty of justice has been erected,” Bracy said.
“I hope this movie will create new awareness leading to renewed action to rid ourselves of the dreadful affliction of legalized abortion.”
Roe v. Wade will be shown on Thursday, May 6 at McVinney Auditorium, an agency of the Diocese of Providence, 43 Dave Gavitt Way, Providence. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the film begins at 7 p.m. Limited seating is available for the COVID-19 compliant event. Registration is required at https://forms.office.com/r/kq8rUe8uvd. For more information, email Lisa Cooley at firstname.lastname@example.org or Barth Bracy at email@example.com. While there is no admission fee, freewill contributions to help defray the cost of the film screening are appreciated.