The film “Unplanned” is unlikely to change your mind about Planned Parenthood and the abortion issue. But then again, it just might.
As one of the directors, Cary Solomon, recounts, “There are certain subjects that are so volatile, that freak people out so radically, that people are actually almost enthralled by it.”
The film, based on a book by the same name, is Abby Johnson’s true-life story. Taking place in Bryan, Texas, a town just outside of Texas A&M, Johnson rose through the Planned Parenthood ranks from volunteer escort to counselor to Planned Parenthood employee of the year to one of the youngest clinic directors in the country in just eight years. The movie also shares the founding of the 40 Days for Life movement started in Bryan, Texas, in which people prayed for pregnant women entering an abortion clinic Johnson directs, trying to offer them another choice.
“Unplanned” is unlikely to win any Hollywood awards, especially given its “R” rating designed to discourage viewers. Despite this, “Unplanned” has been remarkably successful at the box office, coming in as the fourth most viewed film its opening weekend. It’s certainly not a fun movie to watch but it is forthright and realistically wrestles with abortion issues and procedures desperate women (and men) sometimes make.
Ironically, Hollywood’s “R” rating has validated the film’s premise. Ashley Bratcher, the actress who plays Johnson in the movie (and an abortion survivor herself), relates, “We don’t have nudity, we don’t have sex, we don’t have language, so the only thing (Hollywood) could give us an ‘R’ for is violence. So that means they agree that abortion is a violent and disturbing act.”
Which it is, in the movie and in real life.
Filmed in Oklahoma, there are Kansas connections as well. The film includes a 2009 TV news clip of the murder of Wichita’s late-term abortionist George Tiller, occurring at the same time the 40 Days for Life story occurs in Texas. The Knights of Columbus and Kansans for Life were instrumental in sponsoring and marketing the film’s premier in the Kansas City area where it was hugely successful. Kansas City Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, who also heads the U.S. Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities said, “If you see one film this year, see ‘Unplanned.’ … I warn you, ‘Unplanned’ is graphic, it’s painful, but at the same time, inspiring.”
Similarly, Johnson, now a pro-life activist, relates, “Every day I am waking up to messages about how people have been impacted by seeing ‘Unplanned.’ Some walked in pro-choice and walked out pro-life. Others are finding healing from past abortions. And many are finally seeing for the first time that this is what abortion looks like. … It’s my hope that ‘Unplanned’ will be the catalyst to make abortion unthinkable, not only in this nation, but the entire world.”
Finally, mirroring the movie, Kansas City has its own 40 Days for Life chapter. Their Lent prayer session is in progress now and ends April 14. If you are inspired by the movie or feel the call of action and prayer, feel free to join them on the sidewalk. Perhaps the Overland Park Abortion Clinic will be an “Unplanned” sequel.
Greg Beck is a Leavenworth Times columnist.