Directed by Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon. Starring Ashley Bratcher, Brooks Ryan, Robia Scott. Length 106 minutes
Thanks to Australian pro-life charity Cherish Life, I was recently given the opportunity to watch Unplanned (2019), the movie making waves in America for its depiction of the abortion industry. Based on Abby Johnson's book Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line, the movie follows her personal journey from being brought up in a pro-life Christian family, through an abusive relationship at college, a surgical abortion, and an encounter on campus with a friendly Planned Parenthood volunteer, who tells her that Planned Parenthood wants ultimately to decrease the number of abortions by promoting women's healthcare.
Abby signs up to volunteer at her local Planned Parenthood clinic, where she escorts clients from their cars to the clinic door. The movie shows the diversity and, in some segments of the pro-life movement, lack of sense, as it depicts both peaceful, prayerful volunteers from 40 Days for Life quietly offering help to the women, and nasty confrontational protestors. The latter with people dressed as Death with a sickle and waving hard-hitting placards, and a man shouting after a young woman entering the clinic that she “should have kept her legs closed”.
Overwhelmed by her first day at the clinic, Abby does not return again until after she has a second abortion, this time induced at home with the RU486 abortifacient pill. We watch as she writhes in pain alone in her bathroom, haemorrhaging badly and thinking she is about to die. The movie never descends into gratuitous gore, but does not hold back from depicting the reality of abortion. A surgical abortion is displayed via ultrasound as the baby in utero is suctioned out of the womb; later the remains are brought to the Products of Conception (nicknamed “Pieces of Children” by the clinic workers) room where staff ensure that every fetal body part is accounted for, not left in the womb to turn toxic.
The acting in the first scene felt stilted, so I braced myself for a cheesy Christian movie. Fortunately, as the film developed, the characters began to feel relatable and real, grappling with personal ambitions, fear, longing and familial expectations. Abby's parents disapprove of her chosen profession and her first marriage, but they remain ever at her side, quietly supporting their daughter while always praying for her to see the light. Her second husband disapproves of her job too, openly debating the morality of abortion with her, but he loves her deeply and becomes a stable, supportive presence in her life.
The 40 Days for Life leaders, Shawn and Marilisa, also become friendly, steadfast fixtures in Abby's world, though they are literally on opposite sides of the fence. Marilisa persists in snatching bits of conversation with Abby through the abortion clinic fence, never forcing her to change her mind, but simply relating to her as a human being with her own hopes and dreams.
Abby faces the challenge of becoming the youngest director of a Planned Parenthood clinic while carrying an unplanned pregnancy. Her superior exerts intense pressure on her to abort the child, but for the first time, she is adamant about keeping her baby. Though often overlooked, abortion coercion occurs frequently, as recorded by Marie Stopes Australia and Children by Choice (see p. 15, Abortion Reform in Australia). Finally, Abby’s boss relents, and we witness the incongruous sight of abortion clinic workers holding an exuberant baby shower in the clinic after spending a whole day assisting in dozens of abortions.
Abby Johnson has reported that peaceful prayer outside an abortion clinic leads to a 75 percent drop in attendance – a statistic from Planned Parenthood itself. The people praying never hear about most of the lives they have saved. This was very encouraging as I have participated in regular prayer outside clinics too, and sometimes we feel helpless watching people stream inside to have their babies terminated. A fellow audience member reflected that this may be a reason bubble zones/safe access zones have been introduced around abortion clinics in various Australian states. Prayer eats into a clinic's profits.
In its even-handed way, the movie depicts the clinic workers as friendly, supportive human beings, doing what they thought was right and best for the women walking into their doors every day, dedicated to their work even in the face of a hurricane. As a friend of mine pointed out, pro-lifers can learn from the pro-choicers' empathetic approach to women contemplating abortion.
Indeed, this sympathetic, nuanced portrayal of an abortion clinic has touched the heart of at least one pro-choicer:
Since “Unplanned” was released, 94 abortion industry workers have approached Abby's organisation And Then There Were None, seeking help to transition out of the industry.
“Unplanned” can be a life-changing film, gently inviting those who support abortion to re-examine their views and consider opposing viewpoints. The casting was excellent and acting was natural, with touches of humour and joy despite the sombre subject. My husband felt sickened, but it helped him to have a loved one beside him; for those who might become queasy at the more graphic scenes, perhaps it would be a good idea to have a support person watching with you.
Abortion is the Holocaust of our times, a dehumanisation of the most vulnerable segment of the human populace – we owe it to the pre-born children who have never seen the light of day, to share the reality of their daily sacrifice on the altar of convenience.
Jean Seah is a social media manager and freelance writer based in Queensland, Australia. She is also chief editor of the American site Ignitum Today and managing editor of the Daily Declaration..