Director Cynthia Lowen Explains What Led To Roe V. Wade Being Overturned - Exclusive

When news broke on June 24 that Roe v. Wade had been struck down by the Supreme Court, a ripple effect tore through the country. While protestors took to the streets, states across the country set already-passed trigger laws in motion. Abortion legality varies by state – Politico noted that nine states have banned it almost outright, eight states have similar bans ready to go, and a handful of other states are battling it out in court. With so much uncertainty, many people have asked themselves: How did we get here? Director and writer Cynthia Lowen had a similar thought back in 2019.

Lowen's dedication to the subject matter of Roe v. Wade and the abortion movement resulted in her groundbreaking documentary, "Battleground," which premiered at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. The film details the fight for reproductive rights and tells the story of the anti-abortion movement — believers who are single issue voters, determined to the cause, and far more organized than pro-abortion advocates may realize. 

One of the most eye-opening aspects of Lowen's work comes at the beginning of the film, when audio capturing a meeting between then-nominee Donald Trump and leaders of the conservative Christian right is played. In no uncertain terms, Trump promises to deliver on anti-abortion judges in return for support. The audio is startling, expository, and raw — we asked Lowen about it explicitly during our exclusive interview with her.

Cynthia Lowen breaks down the meeting between Trump and the conservative Christian right

Cynthia Lowen broke down the conversation between Donald Trump and leaders of the conservative Christian right, as the then-nominee's unbridled support of anti-abortion justices was clear as day. Amid our discussion, Lowen took the time to break down the meeting and how it directly impacted the reversal of Roe v. Wade and the reality we are seeing unfold today, telling us that the deal between the politician and the religious leaders was symbiotic.

"The film is really about ... the transactional relationship between the Christian right and the anti-abortion movement and a policymaker like Donald Trump, who was very happy to wheel and deal," Lowen told us. "There's a very transparent, transactional nature to what happens there, that the Christian right folks are saying, 'Here's what we want you to do,' and Trump saying, 'Sure, I can do that, as long as you get your communities out to vote for me.'"

Such efforts in 2016 worked to Trump's advantage, as he was able to secure three justices onto the Supreme Court.

The director was keen to show the dynamics of power that were key players in Roe v. Wade's downfall

While highlighting the very calculated path that Donald Trump took while president to ensure a court that would overturn Roe v. Wade, Cynthia Lowen included another layer of complexity to "Battleground" — that of power. Telling us that she wanted to include the audio recording of Trump's meeting with religious leaders at the beginning of the documentary to present the appropriate "context," Lowen divulged that at the heart of the abortion battle is unbridled political influence, of which we're seeing the consequences play out in real time.

"So much of what you see follows from that [meeting], where you see the Supreme Court, justice, by justice, by justice going further and further to the right," Lowen explained to us. "Ultimately, what we have now is the Supreme Court that overturned Roe versus Wade, and that was, in a way, the outcome of not just the strategy making and deal making that you see between Trump and the leaders in the film, but ... the outcome of a decade long strategy to get an anti-abortion Senate, to get anti-abortion justices, [and] to get an anti-abortion president."

Learn more about the documentary, "Battleground," at Follow the film on Facebook at @BattlegroundTheFilm, on Twitter at @battlegrndfilm, and on Instagram at @battlegroundthefilm.