Disclaimer: This movie review contains spoilers!
The upcoming film, Unplanned, (set to hit theaters March 29, 2019) follows the true story of Abby Johnson, a former clinic director for Planned Parenthood who changes her views drastically after years of working in the abortion industry. It is based on her autobiography that outlines Abby’s decision to leave Planned Parenthood after having been “involved in upwards of 22,000 abortions and counseled countless women on their reproductive choices.” It is a moving and inspirational film–one that calls on viewers to acknowledge their own viewpoints and biases, but also recognize the humanity in those who disagree.
LightWorkers was able to speak with Johnson, who says that while working at the clinic, “God really pulled that veil off my eyes and allowed me to see this truth.” Still, she says it was a long faith journey and a process to find healing. “The more that God allowed me to heal, the closer I drew to Him because I had to.”
She notes that many women in her situation are “cast to the side” in society and their stories are not believed. She makes the point that the clinic she worked at (portrayed in the film) “was pretty par for the course” in that its practices were not different from other abortion clinics. She wants people to see the “systemic abuse and manipulation” that takes place inside abortion clinics. “The abortion industry does not put women first. They exploit women at a very vulnerable time in their lives and they exploit them for profit.” Johnson hopes that men and women who have been affected by abortion will recognize these truths in the film and “feel vindicated.”
The power of truth is evident in the movie, as is the life-changing reality of Christ’s love and compassion for women–and men–who find themselves in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy. The film successfully calls out players on both sides of the debate who treat others with unkindness and emboldens people to share their histories.
Johnson finds that most supporters of abortion have a story of their own. She says it is such an “emotionally charged” topic and her desire is to be “pro-love,” as well as pro-life. “Being right is not as important as being kind,” Johnson says. She hopes to encourage people to listen instead of only debating one another.
The MPAA recently released its rating for the film, shocking many by giving it an “R” rating for “some disturbing/bloody images.” The filmmakers and distribution company Pure Flix Entertainment have announced they will not be changing any aspects or scenes of the film in order to receive a PG-13 rating. The film contains no vulgar language, sexual scenes, nudity or gun violence.
Ashley Bratcher plays Abby Johnson in the film and makes the point that abortion is inherently violent. She prepared for the role by watching disturbing images that led Johnson to leave Planned Parenthood. Bratcher notes how this was difficult, but she “couldn’t really grasp what [Abby] saw without seeing it myself.” She relied on God during this preparation and said, “God never failed me.”
Ironically, the MPAA’s rating proves Bratcher and the filmmaker’s overarching point: abortion is violent. If it weren’t, such images wouldn’t be considered disturbing. Johnson also says she hopes the rating will encourage parents to see this movie with their children in order to facilitate dialogue and start a conversation. Bratcher agrees, saying she urges parents “to not be swayed” by the rating, that the film is rated “R” because they are “trying to be honest and truthful” about the reality of abortion.
Bratcher also has a personal connection to abortion that came out when she had already accepted the role. Upon telling her mother about the movie, her mom began to cry and told Bratcher she had almost aborted her when she was nineteen years old. This was the first time Bratcher heard this story, but she feels it shows how God can use anyone – even her, a self-described “nobody” – to be a part of His plan. Bratcher hopes that both men and women will come away from this film knowing that “there is always healing available” and “forgiveness is there for anyone who is willing to receive it.”
An unavoidable object in the film is the literal fence that separates pro-life activists from those working inside and visiting the clinic. The fence serves as a metaphor for our current cultural situation. We find ourselves barricaded from one another in our differing ideologies, only able to see the word “evil” spray-painted on various signs and billboards, accusing rather than connecting. This movie helps to bridge the divide by detailing what goes on inside Planned Parenthood, all while humanizing the people who work there.
By the end of the film, the audience learns that Abby has had two abortions in her life. In one of the final scenes, she is able to reconcile this trauma with hope for the future. She places two roses on the fence outside the clinic, after the building is eventually torn down. She speaks to her unborn children. She tells them how much she loves them and looks forward to seeing them one day. In the background behind her, the viewer can see her husband and young child, watching her, embraced.
In this moment, we see the truth beyond the fence: our barriers can be eliminated when we acknowledge the pain of the past, seek reconciliation, find forgiveness, and ultimately experience redemption.
Abby Johnson uses the pain of her past to help others with their future. She tells people who are struggling that if God can forgive her, He can forgive them, too. “I want them to see that no matter their past, God is ready… to help them find healing.”
Readers can learn more about the film and viewings at unplanned.com/redcarpet.