Michael: On June 15, 2018, “Roe v Wade” began filming in Louisiana. By now, it’s very likely some of you have heard of this film with an “all-star” conservative cast that includes Jon Voight, and Joey Lawrence. Writer, director, and star Nicholas Mears “Nick” Loeb, is the same creepy guy who has been trying to unfreeze embryos he shares with ex-fianceé, Sofia Vergara. Loeb certainly has his work cut out for him, as before filming even began he was hemorrhaging cast and crew, including the original director, the day before shooting began. Many people, including the former unit production manager, attribute this to the controversial script, and its “difficulty” with accuracy. This hasn’t always been the easiest thing to prove, because as the more controversy there’s been about the script, the more it’s been kept under wraps. Most people who have heard about the filming, haven’t read a single bit of the script, because no one has it, but I do. Co-writers include Cathy Beckerman/Cathy Allyn on the script per IMDB.
With rumors going around that while filming, there are constant revisions being made, I cannot guarantee that the script, which clocks in at over a hundred and twenty pages, (about average in length for a feature film), is even a close representation of the final project. However, I have the “crew draft” with “blue revisions” so this is as close as I can get.
I am going to take you along for the fun ride this screenplay provided me while pointing out a few of the flaws not only in the screenplay but the inaccuracies of the pro-life movement itself. But we cannot start this conversation dishonestly. I donate to Planned Parenthood on an irregular basis. I support abortion as an individual’s choice. I am also writing a screenplay about abortion, but mine is more satirical in tone.
Bill: Of questionable and dubious quality, of horrific and disgusting philosophy, comes the screenplay for the infamous local New Orleans film production called 1973, AKA Roe v Wade. Now, it was pretty inevitable that our Hollywood South tax credits would lead to such an ultra-conservative movie being made in our state, but honestly, I had no idea the depths, the sheer depths, that production would go to scrape the bottom of the barrel of their perceived fan base. Are they just wanting to provoke? A scenario where even bad news is good news? Or are they true believers?
Maybe all of the above. Maybe.
The mid-2018 draft of 1973, as written by Nick Loeb and revised by Cathy Beckerman (they are also directing, as I understand), is a beautiful abomination of conspiracy, of name-calling, and of inaccuracy. Gross inaccuracy, even. It was a staggering mission to read without laughing or yelling, and more so to not delete the document in anger. If this movie ever releases (and it probably will), I ask you, dear readers, to consider the following.
Michael: For those not aware, I suppose we should get some history out of the way. People assume that Roe v Wade legalized abortion across the country, but most are not aware of the intricacies of the story. In the end, it comes down to Norma McCorvey, who the screenplay accurately portrays as an alcoholic and abused lesbian, as “Jane Roe.” Jane Roe wanted to have an abortion in Texas but was told that it was illegal. The case was taken all the way to the Supreme Court. Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade represented the state of Texas. His team lost, and abortion was decriminalized across the land.
The script begins with an attractive woman in her twenties going into an abortion clinic. She forgets something and goes to her car. Afterward, in a voice-over, Dr. Bernard Nathanson as played by Nick Loeb, says, “We have been in our 2nd civil war for over 50 years now. Bombing clinics and murdering doctors was hypocrisy.”
The script covers that, but so much more. It goes into some of the history of Planned Parenthood, and founder Margaret Sanger. Sanger, it notes, presented a speech before the female members of the Ku Klux Klan. True. Sanger was willing to talk to anyone about contraception. But the film, as much as it can, not only tries to portray her as a racist and eugenicist but cannot seem to decide whether to blame her for abortion or not, even though, at one point, it claims she was against it.
Bill: From the get-go, the screenplay lays out its plot to discredit and destroy Planned Parenthood, with an Oliver Stone’s JFK level of mysterious rendezvous and elitist mustache twirling. After a dramatic sequence in a Mexican clinic – featuring a doctor smoking during operation (the dirtiness of it all) – with a narration of the Hippocratic oath, we go to The Grand Canyon, where Margaret Sanger, seated in front of the vast American void, spills the beans on what Planned Parenthood is gonna be about.
“We prefer the policy of sterilization to make sure that parenthood is prohibited to the feeble-minded.”
A few pages later, she attends a KKK rally, where she clarifies that the “feeble-minded” are the “negroes”, but cautions everyone not to word things in this way. Clearly, the writers think very little of its audience, having us suspend disbelief long enough to comprehend that not only was PP intended for such an evil premise but also that the founders were so stupid that they had to remind everyone to essentially keep things on the down low.
I’m appalled enough.
Michael: The Encyclopedia Britannica defines eugenics as:
“The science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics. Developed largely by Francis Galton as a method of improving the human race, it fell into disfavor only after the perversion of its doctrines by the Nazis.”
Sanger often gets a bad rap for her opinions regarding eugenics, but eugenics was not a product of Nazis. Eugenics, in its various forms, was supported by a multitude of people, along with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Ford–yes, that Henry Ford—and famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, of whom Hitler was so fond, he awarded Lindbergh the Iron Cross. No other American but Henry Ford is mentioned in Mein Kampf. President Theodore Roosevelt believed that criminals and the feeble-minded should be sterilized; renowned writer and activist, Helen Keller, who was deaf and blind, warned against “cowardly sentimentalism” and believed the solution might be physician juries to determine if a disabled infant should live or die. Famous black writer and activist, W. E. B. Du Bois were also proponents of eugenics. Du Bois wrote for the June 1932 issue of Birth Control Review, the magazine founded by Margaret Sanger, in an article titled, “A Negro Number” that to actually help the African-American race, birth control was necessary, concluding that, “(We) must learn that among human races and groups, as among vegetables, quality and not mere quantity really counts.”
So eugenics is a very dirty word today. But until the Nazis came along, and began to exterminate people on a massive scale, it was a common and respected idea, with the goal of breeding the best traits from the best people. On the surface, that is a noble goal.
Bill: The team of Nick Loeb and Cathy Beckerman, tasked with telling all Americans “the truth” of abortion laws in this country, chose not to write out the awful situations with lackluster ambivalence, but instead actively take this opportunity to inject visual flare and cinematics into what is essentially a Super Christian Right manifesto. There is a character named “Potemkin” who is playing chess. This name is a reference to the silent film Battleship Potemkin, which stands the test of time for its glorious use of anti-establishment propaganda. Hint hint. This chess match ends with a maneuver involving “The Queen,” which cuts to Margaret Sanger at The Grand Canyon (the American void), talking about her love of champagne.
The script is chock full of details like these, where the setting and/or action is as important to the conversation as the people. Almost every page is filled with such flare, making it pretty infuriating just how much showing off the writers are planning. And it’s all at the service of such blunt-headed, disturbing, and totally wrong stories.
Michael: The script takes liberty with that idea with a famously abused quote from Margaret Sanger. In one of the early scenes, on her deathbed, Sanger speaks with future NARAL co-founder Lawrence Ladder, who throughout the screenplay is called by the more familiar, “Larry.” she says to him, “Yes, but we do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the negro population.” This moment never happened.
In the non-Nick Loeb world, she wrote in a letter that, “The minister’s work is also important and he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”
“Birth Control is not advanced as a panacea by which past and present evils of dysgenic breeding can be magically eliminated. Possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupidly cruel sentimentalism.”
In the same article she also writes: “Not until the parents of the world are thus given control over their reproductive faculties will it ever be possible, not alone to improve the quality of the generations of the future, but even to maintain civilization even at its present level. Only by self-control of this type, only by intelligent mastery of the procreative powers can the great mass of humanity be awakened to the great responsibility of parenthood.”
I cannot say with any certainty that Margaret Sanger was not a racist. But the evidence they use to say she was, is irresponsible, lazy, and as much as anything else, really dumb. Or is it?
This is just one of the early examples of a movie that takes “creative liberties” to pursue an anti-abortion agenda. I do not pretend to know Nick Loeb or the reasons for Nick Loeb’s misrepresentations, but I do know that this is only one of several falsehoods that he portrays. Are he and the other writers just dumb?
Bill: 1973 is, far and away, one of the worst movies to penetrate my imagination before having seen one single scene. However, despite the grossness had, it’s mostly pundit talking points and Wikipedia subject matter. There really isn’t much else to the script than rumors, conspiracies, and hearsay that we’ve all suffered having to listen to for decades. Just take all of that, turn them literal, and find some actors. It’s the film that’s the result of Fox News’ 24/7 cycle of misinformation.
It’s harmful but ho-hum. We’ve been there, and we’ve done that.
Michael: That misinformation is a theme in the work as they misuse quotes. Perhaps, rather than being dumb, the misuse is the tool of the propagandist.
Robert Byrn, who fights against abortion in a lawsuit representing all the unborn children of New York, as “the guardian of the Unborn” is particularly abused by the screenplay. For example, when he “quotes” President Abraham Lincoln, “To sin by silence when they should protest, makes cowards of men.” Except Lincoln never said that. It’s from the poem “Protest” by Ella Wheeler Cox.
Now, these are a few of many incorrect uses of quotes, misquotes, and just outright lies. None of this stops Nick Loeb, who along with these, abuses Benjamin Franklin, and uses a quote from Susan B. Anthony that is not supported by any evidence as actually originating from her as well. He doesn’t come across as a respected Tulane graduate, but I do admit, I can see him as part of the intellectual force that was the staff of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s campaign, responsible for the campaign’s finances, which he was.
But let’s move away from this small incompetence, and forward to greater things. For a guy of Jewish parentage, he also comes across as rather anti-Semitic. On at least one occasion, it’s noted in the screenplay, that Betty Friedan, Lawrence Ladder, and Bernard Nathanson are Jewish, which is accurate. That these are all some of the film’s supposed bad guys is interesting, as they are all portrayed as stereotypical money-grubbers.
But the most interesting moment concerns Milo Yiannopoulos. Milo was born Milo Hanrahan. Yiannopoulos, former Breitbart writer, and self-proclaimed “Dangerous Faggot,” plays the comic relief in the film as Dr. David Sopher, IMAGE Per the screenplay, “DR. DAVID SOPHER, 40’s, Anglo-Jew from India, with an unusual habit of an awkward giggle at the end of every sentence, prepares the operation…” Because when I think Anglo-Jew from India, I think of English-Greek pedophile-supporter, Milo. At some point, however, Milo dropped out and was replaced by Nigel Smith.
But let’s move away from the misattribution, misquoting, mildly poor casting, and seeming anti-Semitism. Let’s move onto the meat of this monstrosity. I have never met Dr. Bernard Nathanson, and it will be difficult for me to do so now, since he has been very dead since 2011. He is our protagonist, portrayed by acting heavyweight (!) Nick Loeb himself, an incredibly bizarre and egotistical casting decision. Dr. Nathanson is our unreliable narrator. A genuinely interesting character because, in real life as well as in the screenplay, Nathanson was one of the so-called “beasts” of the abortion movement, a licensed ob-gyn who supposedly carried out 5,000 abortions himself, and was involved in perhaps 70,000 others.
Nathanson is definitely not a hero. Initially, in the screenplay, he is a philanderer, sending his girlfriend to die by an illegal abortion in Montreal. She lives, but the screenplay shows her leaving a taxi soaked in blood from the abortion. In real life, he married four times. He veered from Judaism to atheism to Catholicism. He moved from ardently pro-abortion, both personally and professionally, to vehemently anti-abortion. Some might call him a ditherer.
Yet, he becomes one of the strongest voices in the pro-life movement, not for religious reasons but because of the first ultrasound images he sees of an abortion. This eventually leads to the famous anti-abortion documentary film, “The Silent Scream,” which President Reagan played in the White House. Eventually, Nathanson speaks out against abortion and becomes a Catholic. He also made a sequel film, “Eclipse of Reason.” All accurate.
The conclusions reached by these films about fetal pain and other scientific questions, however, are still being hotly debated by scientists, scholars, and theologians. Many vastly disagree with Nathanson’s conclusions.
Loeb is not a doctor, but he plays one in this film. And the Nathanson he portrays is really over the top. Over the top is an understatement. To say it portrays Nathanson inaccurately would be an understatement, as well. At one point, the film portrays Nathanson having done an abortion, staring at himself in a mirror screaming “What have I done?” Still in blood-soaked scrubs, he staggers into a Catholic Cathedral, berating God, through the quotations of Epicurus:
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
If that happened, or he says it happened in his book, I’ll recant, but that, melodrama aside, is ridiculous. Nathanson didn’t suddenly find God. That was a process and might have been portrayed authentically rather than as High Drama.
Betty Friedan, author of “The Feminine Mystique” also gets the melodramatic and scurrilous script treatment. She is portrayed as a knife-wielding, high on amphetamines, husband-attacker. Near the end of the film, Nathanson chastises Friedan, by saying that 100% of scientists agree that life begins at conception, a patently false assertion.
Movie Nathanson narrates over fetal dismemberment, and “undercover” video from the Center for Medical Progress supposedly showing proof that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue for profit. This video in question was made in 2015, four years after the death of Nathanson. It is also important to note that Planned Parenthood denies that it has ever sold tissue for profit, although fetal tissue has been studied since the 1930s, and is legal.
Bill: The good news is that many organizations, crew people, and actors have been quitting the production in droves, making for one difficult shoot. This is how free speech works both ways. You can make a movie if you want, but others don’t have to help you if they don’t want to. The bad news is that we live in a time where such craziness doesn’t just run rampant but is encouraged and emboldened.
My suggestion: Go see the next Marvel Studios flick instead. Enjoy life and vote with your ticket stub.
Michael: If one is going to make a film about Roe v Wade, it seems essential to really hew to facts. If not, it’s little more than propaganda. A film can be both entertaining and factual. Misleading propaganda is neither.
The crew script for Roe v Wade doesn’t suffer from the inconveniences of facts or nuance. Yes, it purports to do so, and it fails badly. With a work of complete fiction, that makes no bones about being just that, I neither know nor care whether a movie is truthful. In this instance, the subject matter is important and still relevant.
This film, such as the screenplay conveys, is a piece of propagandist garbage. It avoids the truth like the plague, relies on the ignorance and gullibility of the film-goer, and put simply, just lies. It’s garbage, and Nick Loeb is a garbage person for making it. He is a dishonest huckster, and truly a discredit to the seriousness the pro-life movement deserves.