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Still from 'Unplanned.' Unplanned Movie / Youtube screen grab
Dr. Élise Rose

Opinion,

Why Canadians need to see Unplanned, now available in Canadian theaters

Dr. Élise Rose

July 12, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Why should Canadians see Unplanned, the biopic of Abby Johnson’s life, opening on July 12? Other, more traditional summer options featuring superheroes and talking toys are out there. Why watch a film about abortion, a subject both controversial and even gruesome? Because it just might be eye-opening.

The US public certainly awarded the film unexpected box office success. Unplanned grossed over $18 million in its US theatrical release, triple its minimal budget. I believe that Unplanned is helping to break down our society’s denial about the true nature of abortion. More and more people are coming to recognize the violent nature of the procedure. Furthermore, because it depicts one woman’s personal journey from such denial to acceptance of the truth, it gives moviegoers permission to change their own points of view.

Unplanned, written and directed by Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon, tells the story of Abby Johnson’s transformation from abortion clinic director to pro-life activist. Although the movie covers one of the most controversial political and moral issues of our time, it is essentially a dramatic biography describing Abby Johnson’s complete reversal of perspective. The film shows how her eyes were opened to the reality of abortion, while also exposing the inner workings of Planned Parenthood, the abortion industry’s corporate giant.

In Unplanned, Abby Johnson experiences a meteoric rise in the Planned Parenthood organization, going from volunteer to youngest clinic director in the nation. Believing that its mission is noble and compassionate, she convinces herself that she is serving other women and has both surgical and chemical abortions while still in college. Even though the latter was a terrible experience for her, when counseling other women who are considering the procedure, she repeats the lies she was told before her own abortions.

When informed by superiors that her clinic has a quota to double the number of abortions it performs in a year, Abby begins to doubt the organization’s true mission. When she points out that they should serve women and reduce abortion rather than seek financial profit — the organization’s goals as initially pitched to Abby — her supervisors reprimand her for not understanding the primary function of Planned Parenthood: the business of abortion. Finally, when she assists in a suction abortion and views the fetus struggling against the aspirator, something clicks. As she breaks down, she begins to acknowledge the pain and grief from her own abortions and joins with those who oppose abortion.

Ashley Bratcher, who plays Abby, carries this film. Her powerful and natural performance remains believable through both lighthearted and profoundly emotional scenes. She stands out even in a strong cast.

Unplanned received an R rating for disturbing/bloody images from the Motion Picture Association of America, the first ever for a film produced by Pure Flix. Several scenes do vividly show the violence of abortion: a botched abortion where the doctor perforates a uterus, a chemical abortion where Abby spends weeks in pain, and the ultrasound showing a fetus futilely evading the abortionist’s suction cannula. Yet these scenes are realistic. There are countless PG-13-rated action movies with more gore than Unplanned, but perhaps those in the film industry have not previously realized the traumatic nature of abortion, which is very different from violence portrayed in the latest superhero movie. The real irony of the R rating, as other reviews have noted, is that a girl of 14, 15, or 16 could get an abortion without her parent’s consent, but she could not attend this movie depicting the reality of abortion without being accompanied by an adult 18 or older.

Make no mistake. Unplanned is an emotional movie. People in the theater around me were sobbing. I found the heart-wrenching scenes where Abby undergoes a chemical abortion most affecting. However, just as a photograph of the beaten Emmett Till sparked the civil rights movement, I am hopeful that the many images of the ugly reality of abortion in Unplanned may help people connect with their natural, gut-level revulsion.

This movie succeeds because of the transformative story and its sympathetic treatment of all concerned. Although openly supporting the prolife viewpoint, the film depicts almost all the Planned Parenthood workers as well intentioned. The women seeking abortion are mostly extremely young, invariably vulnerable, and sometimes coerced. Most of the pro-life activists are portrayed as thoughtful and caring, not as religious fanatics. Kaiser Johnson provides comic relief as a cocky lawyer.

I believe that the filmmakers’ choice to show most dramatic material at the beginning via flashback causes the film to lag somewhat in the last half hour. Occasionally, it becomes preachy, especially in a debate between Shawn Carney of 40 Days for Life and Abby. I also found the music distracting in places.

Overall, this film tells the truth about abortion facilities like those run by Planned Parenthood. Unplanned is the best movie yet to realistically show what happens to babies in the womb, to the vulnerable and impressionable women undergoing these horrific procedures, and to the workers within the clinics. We can be thankful that one of them, Abby Johnson, told her story and that millions of people, finally including those north of the border, are getting to see it presented so vividly.

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