One’s already controversial and it isn’t even out yet. Few seemed to have noticed the other two. Three teams of filmmakers have been working to tell true stories that reveal the humanity of lives in the womb. All three are on track to release in the next seven months.
Unplanned is based on the memoir of former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson. Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer is a crime drama set in urban Philadelphia. Linked closely to pro-life leaders, these films appear to be a step up from past efforts Bella, Voiceless and October Baby.
Those are the two the mainstream, and pro-choice, media hasn’t yet noticed. The media have noticed Nick Loeb’s Roe v. Wade. And they don’t like it.
Unplanned Journey of Planned Parenthood Whistleblower
In October 2009, one Texas woman caused a national uproar when she quit her job. Abby Johnson had worked at the local Planned Parenthood near College Station, Texas, for eight years. She started as a volunteer and worked up to clinic director.
“Stories have a way of disarming people and connecting with them on a heart level,” says Christina Marie Bennett. A Connecticut activist, she starred in the short film Pro-Life Feminist.
“They go past defense mechanisms and straight into their hearts. Films allow us to empathize and relate on a human level with another person,” she says. “You can’t argue with someone’s testimony.”
She thinks having three very different films release can be a good thing. “There’s all this variety in the pro-life movement. We’re a diverse group — there are secular and Christian pro-lifers, people of every ethnicity. Oftentimes our stories are not being told on CNN and MSNBC.”
Long involved in pregnancy care outreach, Bennett thinks the best stories are born from personal experiences. “We don’t have to doctor anything up or try to make an appealing story. What we do is beautiful. It brings hope to peoples’ lives. All we have to do is just tell it.”
“The more we do that, the more people’s eyes will be opened,” she concludes. “It will counter the lies that are out there.”
As told in her memoir Unplanned, the women’s rights advocate found the work “wonderfully rich and satisfying” at first. Johnson took pride in how their team efficiently distributed forms of contraception to avoid more costly clinical abortions. For years, she never saw an abortion procedure firsthand. Then a visiting doctor asked Johnson to assist him in the exam room.
A remarkable series of events followed, including a clandestine meeting with pregnancy help leaders next door, a shocking local TV interview and a legal gag order from Planned Parenthood. The abortion rights group lost their statewide spokesperson, while the pro-life movement gained a new perspective.
She made public in 2014 that Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, writers of the $60 million independent blockbuster God’s Not Dead, had inked a deal to produce her story as a major motion picture. Unplanned is slated to release February 22, 2019.
Details have been scarce, though the producers of this spring’s surprise hit I Can Only Imagine are reportedly involved.
‘Superman’ Brings Serial Killer Gosnell to Justice
In early 2010, disturbing reports of an abortion center in west Philadelphia became too numerous for authorities to ignore.
When the FBI and Philadelphia investigators raided the offices of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, what they found shocked them. Unsanitary exam rooms reeked of blood. Baby body parts were kept in jars.
Gosnell was convicted of three murders and more than 200 counts of violating state abortion laws. He is serving three life sentences in a state prison. After being partially told in the documentary 3801 Lancaster: American Tragedy, a scripted version of the story will finally hit theaters this fall.
The crime drama Gosnell has faced more barriers to release than perhaps any recent film. In 2014 Kickstarter snubbed producers from using its crowdfunding platform. They raised over $2 million on Indiegogo. Last year, the Philadelphia judge on the case feared he was portrayed in an unflattering light. He blocked the movie from distribution, in a lawsuit only recently resolved.
Filmmakers persisted and have now secured an October 12, 2018 release for their film. Directed by veteran actor Nick Searcy (The Fugitive, Cast Away), Gosnell stars Dean Cain as the lead detective who stumbles onto the case. Cain portrayed “Superman” on the hit 1990’s TV show Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. The crime drama also features Sarah Jane Morris (Coyote Ugly) as a district attorney for the state and Earl Billings (Con Air) as Kermit Gosnell.
Roe v. Wade
A third movie with a recent rising profile comes from producer Nick Loeb, who only recently “converted” to being pro-life. It will recount events leading up the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide.
“We take a factual look at the case and show both sides of the arguments,” he tells The Stream. The movie’s website describes it as “the real untold story of how people lied; how the media lied; and how the courts were manipulated to pass a law that has since killed over 60 million Americans.” Speaking to Vanity Fair, he called his movie “a social war movie where we take both sides of the argument and hopefully let the audience decide.”
Roe v. Wade will be the first script for Nick Loeb and his production partner Cathy Allyn. For two years, they researched the case using 40 sources including court transcripts and several books. Loeb himself co-stars as prominent abortion provider Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who became pro-life. His 1996 book The Hand of God is a primary source of scenes and quotes.
After a crowdfunding campaign that began in January, the film was rushed into production this summer. Some people may feel there is a pro-life bias, he says, “But we took a black-and-white view of this and laid it all out there.” The film reportedly costs $6.5 million to make.
A report last week claimed several cast and crew members quit Roe v. Wade, which Loeb disputes in part. “None of our key people on the crew quit,” he says. “It’s a crew of 125 people, a cast of 74 and a thousand extras. We’ve both worked on several films, and it’s normal for people to quit.”
His partner Cathy Allyn states they have to abide by high standards. “We’re a union show,” she says, noting their SAG-AFTRA agreements in place. “So claiming that we’re doing anything substandard is preposterous.”
Despite compelling source material, some have raised concerns about the script. In January, pro-life leader Robert George shared an exchange with Loeb. “I had some objections to certain characterizations of facts presented in a pitch video for the movie that Mr. Loeb shared with me,” George wrote online. “I will endorse [the film] if, but only if, it is strictly historically accurate. I do not believe in taking liberties with the truth, even in the very best of causes.”
Aspects of the film’s casting have also raised questions. “Half the cast is pro-choice,” said Loeb in a recent interview. Two controversial figures, Milo Yiannopoulos and Tomi Lahren, will reportedly have cameos. Lahren proclaimed herself pro-choicelast year on the television The View. Yiannopoulos has long been linked with the troubling alt-right movement.
A Very Complicated Script
Reportedly, their take on the case starts in 1969. It features Dr. Mildred Jefferson, the first African-American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School. Co-founder of National Right to Life Committee, she will be portrayed by actress and former Fox News personality Stacey Dash (View from the Top).
Newcomer Ellery Sprayberry will portray Norma McCorvey, a.k.a. “Jane Roe,” who came to regret her role in the case. McCorvey, who died in 2017, never had an abortion and fought to overturn the case over the last two decades. Lucy Davenport (Dinner for Schmucks) will play feminist leader Betty Friedan.
“It’s a very complicated script,” Loeb tells The Stream. “There are a lot of story lines and over a hundred locations. It’s not easy to understand when you read it for the first time. Once it’s visual, it makes sense. You remember The Big Short? It had five different story lines all going on at the same time. This will be similar.”
Academy Award winner Jon Voight stars as Warren Burger, the chief justice who presided over the case. Corbin Bernsen (Psych) plays Justice Harry Blackmun and John Schneider (Smallville) portrays Justice Byron White.
Josh M. Shepherd covers culture, faith, and public policy issues as a Contributor to The Stream. He has served on staff at Focus on the Family, The Heritage Foundation, Bound4LIFE International, and two Congressional offices. His articles have appeared in media outlets including The Federalist, The Daily Signal, Boundless, The Christian Post, and Christian Headlines. A graduate of the University of Colorado, Josh and his wife live in the Washington, D.C., area.
Visit GosnellMovie.com to find out where the crime drama is playing this fall. Learn more about the film Roe v. Wade. Watch for full interviews with these filmmakers coming soon to The Stream. Explore our complete Film coverage.