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Dr. Alveda King on Her Dual Roles in New Film Roe v. Wade

Kimberly Carr - Digital Media Producer

Abortion. The sanctity of human life. How did society, laws, attitudes – how did we get here? These are questions the movie Roe v. Wade seeks to answer.

Based on the real-life court case of the same name, the film presents the players and facts to which you may have never been introduced. In just under two hours, viewers are led through the drama which unfolded around the landmark case as the script ambitiously attempts to wade through dry legal procedures while bringing life to key players in the story.

Dr. Alveda King is herself a key player in bringing Roe v. Wade to fruition. Dr. King not only serves as executive producer, she also appears as Guthrie Jefferson, the loving mother and encourager to the film’s main character Dr. Mildred Jefferson (Stacey Dash). Dr. King’s acting repertoire adds to the list of her other accomplishments, including activism, author, and former state representative for the 28th District in the Georgia House of Representatives. Also a niece of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. King has been a pro-life speaker since 1983 and often speaks on college campuses about abortion issues and her personal experiences with abortion. She had two abortions and attempted to get a third one. She joined the pro-life movement, pushing to offer women alternatives to abortion.

Dr. King’s role as pastoral associate at Priests for Life since 2005 (with a connection which goes as far back as 1999) is what seems to guide and greatly inform her passion for this project.

It was a pleasure to speak with Dr. King about about Roe v. Wade. I liken our time to more of a chat with a dear friend instead of an interview. In fact, she surprised me by asking the first question.

Dr. Alveda King: Before you ask me your questions, as executive producer, I’d love some feedback. What do you think about it?

Kimberly Carr: I was completely overwhelmed in a good way. I'm a Christian and I knew the highlights of the real story behind Roe v. Wade, but there was so much good information in the movie.

Dr. King: Okay. That feels good to me. That's our objective. It wasn't to proselytize or necessarily even to convert, although we hope it does, but just to put some real information on how it happened.

KC: Like you said, I didn't feel like you were trying to be persuasive. It just laid it all out there.

Dr. King: And at the end of the day, we say, ‘Now you decide.’ That is our hope.

KC: I really appreciated the perspective of trying to show the heart of the main character doctor who kept saying he really wanted to protect women. Doctors truly believe that.

Dr. King: They do. Dr. Bernard Nathanson – that's the doctor who had a change of heart at the very end. Dr. Nathan had a transformation of his heart because he realized that not only was he not truly serving women, but he was harming little girls in the womb. Those are little women. So he had to think about that and then hopefully at some point, even the civil rights of the issue, because to take the life of an innocent person, that's something that has to be considered as well. I work for Priests for Life. I'm a pastoral associate and I lead up civil rights for the unborn. However, we're concerned about the mother’s civil rights as well.

KC: How did you become involved in Roe v. Wade?

Dr. King: I have been in the film and entertainment and media business for over 50 years. I'm 70 years old and I've been in movies and stage plays. I am a producer, I sing and I write music. I have helped direct documentaries and executive produced them. And so I'm one of the executive producers for the film, but I'm also a stage and screen actress. I was honored to be in that, but I've been in many, many films – Burt Reynolds, Sharky's Machine, North and South, In the Heat of the Night. That's just naming some of my work. I was a security guard in a Warren Beatty movie. And interestingly enough, I inspired the movie Coming to America. I inspired that because it was based on a book that I wrote, believe it or not, although they didn't do credits for that.  

KC: Tell me about your acting role in Roe v. Wade.

Dr. King: The role was not written for me. One of our main characters, a hero of mine, a human hero – Jesus is my biggest hero, but my human hero is Dr. Mildred Jefferson. Stacey Dash portrays Dr. Jefferson. Dr. Jefferson, in her own words, was the first Negro woman who graduated from Harvard School of Medicine. She also helped found the National Right to Life. And so she was having a conversation with her mother and this happened to be a natural scene for me. Stacy and I have great chemistry together – we’re friends.

KC: She really is at the heart of the moment of the movie. Her mom really does reset her and really shore her up to continue the fight.

Dr. King: And that's kind of my natural personality. A lot of people call me mama.

KC: Wow, you're so busy. How do you stay healthy and keep your energy up to keep all this stuff going?

Dr. King: I actually pray a whole lot and prayer bolsters me, encourages me. Continue in prayer. Pray, pray, pray, and trust God, of course. All of that really helps us to make it in life.

KC: I have a note here that says to ask you about the OneBlood Project. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Dr. King: Absolutely. There's a book that I wrote with Ginger Howard called We're Not Colorblind. The premise of the book is Acts 17:26. Of one blood, God made all people. We are not separate races. The concept of separate race is socially engineered and it divides the human family. So that's it in a nutshell.

KC: Towards the end of the movie, there's a statistic that said African Americans account for 40% of all abortions in America today. How divisive is the act of abortion between what we call the races. How do you speak to African American women specifically? How do you hope to help them?

Dr. King: Well, first to African American women and then to all women. And I want to remind us that we just had, Black History Month and now were’ in Women’s History Month. And so as an African American woman, I speak to the message of one blood, one human race. And when I look at Roe v. Wade is supposed to serve women, it does not serve women. And it's very injurious for the little girls in the womb, to the little black girls in the womb and to all the little girls in the womb. It's not good for women either. Abortion is just not good for women. Those are just the messages that I share to women and to all people.

KC: How do you think the church or people in the church can care for women before they get to the point of decision about having an abortion or not? What can we do practically?

Dr. King: I personally believe that the church can go back and look at what has been taught to the women in our congregations. What are we saying? Are we teaching young ladies to value their lives, their bodies? Are we teaching young men the importance of a destiny that can be changed, not paying attention to what you do as a young person? I think my favorite scripture for that is that the end of Ecclesiastes, “Remember your creator the days of your youth.”

KC: I feel like we covered a good portion. Is there anything you wanted to mention?

Dr. King: I’d like to mention that my grandfather convinced my mother not to abort me in 1950. He convinced me not to abort one of my children in the 1970s. So even though I had secret abortions, I was able to birth six children. And right now I have 11 grandchildren and everybody's not done yet.

KC: That is a powerful story of redemption.

Dr. King: God has forgiven me and healed me and used my voice.

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