Directed by Nick Loeb and Cathy Allyn, “Roe v. Wade” tells the story of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a pioneering abortion provider from the 1960s who later became anti-abortion campaigner. Loeb has said that the movie doesn’t take sides and tries simply to “lay out the facts” surrounding the titular 1973 Supreme Court ruling.
But it doesn’t take long for the film’s agenda to become clear. A confused, sepia-tinted cross between a mafia thriller, a courtroom drama and a saga of prophetic redemption, “Roe v. Wade” paints Nathanson and the abortion rights activist Lawrence Lader (Jamie Kennedy) as the masterminds of a mercenary anti-Catholic conspiracy. They were in cahoots, we’re told, with Hollywood, the news media, Protestant clergy and rabbis, with the latter singled out in a caricaturish scene.
Featuring turns by Stacey Dash, Jon Voight, Tomi Lahren, Milo Yiannopoulos and other prominent conservatives, the film lobs a series of “gotcha” moments at the abortion rights movement. These range from references to the documented eugenicist beliefs of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, to flimsier claims that Supreme Court justices were unfairly pressured by female relatives to vote in favor of Roe v. Wade.
But the film’s coup de grâce — Nathanson’s tearful change of heart upon seeing his first sonogram — dispenses with political arguments for crude sentimentality. Those who disagree that abortion is akin to murder are unlikely to be persuaded, and even those on the fence might struggle to sit through the hammy acting and poor production values.
Roe v. Wade
Rated PG-13 for gory descriptions and images of surgical procedures. Running time: 1 hour 52 minutes. Available to rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.