Among many shifts in decorum between the Obama and Trump administrations is the White House movie night. Under Obama, the White House hosted films with social or political import such as Hidden Figures, Long Walk to Freedom, and Selma. The Trump White House, meanwhile, has hosted Finding Dory – an objectively strong choice – and The Post – a stranger pick, considering that the film deals with the internal gears of a paper fighting to publish an historic and unflattering report on an administration that lied to the public and to Congress.
On Friday, the tradition takes a turn to the right, when the White House shows the anti-abortion movie Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer. Released in 2018 to a $3.6 million box office gross, the film stars former Superman Dean Cain as the detective who investigates abortion provider and physican Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted in 2013 of first-degree murder in the deaths of three infants that were born alive. The president will reportedly not be attending the showing.
The movie, largely crowdfunded, reportedly presents Gosnell as a typical abortion provider, although the Philadelphia-based physician was in violation of countless medical standards, from the hygenically gross to the ethically macabre. In 2013, in addition to the first-degree murder convictions, Gosnell was convicted for involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient who died after an abortion procedure.
Still, the film has caught on within the Trump administration, as it seeks to appeal to the pro-life wings of his base. As Politico states, the screening “is the latest effort by the Trump administration to cater to abortion foes, a push that also has included judicial nominations, executive actions and reform of federal Title X funding for birth control and reproductive services – a trio of kept promises that Trump is expected to tout as he hits the campaign trail in 2020.”
The plan to screen Gosnell at the White House emerged in the weeks after the 2018 midterms, when a group of anti-abortion activists reportedly met at the White House to further enlist the president in their cause. In addition to the idea to screen the film, the activists also suggested to administration officials that they impose new restrictions on federal funding for abortion providers, and to end grants for fetal tissue research. As Politico notes, the Trump administration warned UC San Francisco several weeks later that it could lose a $2 million contract with the NIH for their research involving aborted fetus tissue.