Film Review: ‘Unplanned’ Tells a Powerful Story

In Australia, the practice and morality of abortion is governed by a pro-choice consensus. The legislative trend in our state jurisdictions has been to remove abortion from the Crimes Act and allow abortions right up until birth.

In some states, there has also been legislation that erects exclusion zones around abortion clinics, preventing pro-life campaigners offering women entering into the clinic information and support.

The number of abortions carried out in Australia ranges from 65,000 to 80,000 per year. Despite legislative barriers being removed, pro-abortion advocates believe access to abortion is still limited.

There was pressure on the Tasmanian Government to make sure abortion was provided in the state after the state’s only abortion clinic announced it was closing. Labor went to the federal election promising free abortions at public hospitals.

This pro-choice consensus in Australia means that abortion dare not be described as anything other than a medical procedure. It is never allowed to be described as the act of killing a child, what goes on in an abortion procedure is kept out of the public domain for fear this consensus could be shattered.

Breaking the pro-choice consensus is the purpose of the American film ‘Unplanned’ which tells the true story of former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson’s journey from being pro-choice counselor to becoming a pro-life advocate.

The movie begins with Abby being called on to assist with an abortion procedure, although she had been in the clinic 8 years this was the first time she had ever been asked to assist in one.

Abby sees the live baby on the ultrasound and its attempt to resist being pulled out by the doctor. As the baby is pulled out, tubes in the operating room fill with blood until the baby is no more.

It is an horrific and shocking scene to watch, but it is the brutal reality of how an abortion procedure is performed. Abby runs to the bathroom crying and the story begins about how she came to this point.

Despite being raised in a baptist household, Abby still volunteers with Planned Parenthood after she meets a representative at her university, because she believes they work to prevent abortions. We learn that Abby herself has had two abortions.

When she arrives at the clinic on her first day, she sees the pro-life advocates out the front. Some are more kind and compassionate than others. Despite their opposing views, she befriends one of the pro-lifers, Marilisa, who is seen throughout Abby’s time at the clinic.

Abby is soon promoted up the clinic by director Cheryl and becomes a counselor where it is her job to convince young women to have abortions as soon as possible. When Cheryl is promoted higher up in Planned Parenthood, Abby becomes the clinic director.

During her time at the clinic, her parents and husband continue to express their displeasure at Abby’s choice of work. Soon Abby becomes pregnant for the third time, but this time has the baby and finds it a joyous experience.

Abby’s mind begins to change when at a Planned Parenthood general meeting, Cheryl states that Planned Parenthood wants to increase the number of abortions performed to increase its revenue and profits. Performing more abortions goes against what Abby was told Planned Parenthood was about.

Another pivotal moment is when Abby is escorting a black teenage girl into the clinic with her religious family pleading with her not go through with the procedure. Cheryl has now become hostile to Abby for challenging her directive to perform more abortions.

Then the film turns to the abortion Abby witnessed at the beginning. Afterwards she runs to the church that Marilisa runs with her husband Shaun, with whom she operates the 40 Days for Life campaign. They promise to help her exit the clinic and start a new chapter in her life.

She joins the pro-lifers outside her old clinic where she saves a girl from seeking an abortion. Then later, Cheryl threatens Abby and Planned Parenthood sues her, Marilisa and Shaun, accusing Abby of taking confidential information from the clinic.

Despite Cheryl’s taunts, Abby wins the case and can properly start the new chapter of her life. She later learns that her former clinic is shutting down and organises an event at the abandoned clinic expressing her regret for facilitating abortions as well as her own abortions.

The film in the United States was rated R by its MPAA rating system, due to its graphical depiction of the abortion procedure. This means a child under 17 can only view it accompanied by a parent or guardian. It is certainly confronting and gory and it is understandable that a film rating warns viewers about it.

While the movie is confronting, it is necessary to depict the abortion procedure in detail because that is what takes place, it is the disturbing reality of what goes on in this “medical procedure”. It has certainly converted some moviegoers from being pro-choice to pro-life.

It is a film the abortion industry does not want people to see. Unplanned has faced significant hurdles in its advertising and distribution to cinema chains. Major TV networks have refused to run ads for the film citing the R rating and subject matter. It also had its Twitter account suspended (later reinstated) on its opening weekend.

Despite these hurdles it has still managed to be seen in over 1,000 theatres in the United States on its opening weekend. It has so far made $18 million at the box office, easily making back its $6 million budget. Investors of the film weren’t doing so to make money but to get the message of the film out there.

In the United States, the wider pro-life movement is impacting change. Legislation has passed in the state of Alabama banning abortion at every stage of pregnancy. In the state of Georgia, they have passed a 6-week total abortion ban. Both these bans contain no exceptions but criminalise only the doctor performing the abortion, not the woman obtaining in it.

These new abortion restrictions are widely viewed as steps in attempting to overturn the Supreme Court decision Roe vs Wade which legalised abortion nationwide in the United States in 1973, but has been untested in the new Supreme Court.

Contrast this with Australia where the film is yet to have a theatrical release. The Unshackled attended the Ballarat and Melbourne screenings of Unplanned.

Producer Daryl Lefever travelled to Australia to promote the film and meet with interested groups and we spoke to him after Ballarat premiere.

The Ballarat premiere was organised by a friend of the Unshackled, director of All Nations Christian Mental Health, Dianne Colbert, who we also caught up with.

We were able to gather some audience reactions after the Melbourne premiere.

If the pro-choice consensus is ever to change in Australia, the wider public viewing this film would be the best place to start. Already being pro-life before this film, even I was shocked at what I saw. The Unplanned Challenge has been launched, where pro-lifers challenge pro-choice friends to view the movie to see if it challenges their views.

While Unplanned did not have the backing of a Hollywood studio nor could it rely on big names, the production values and acting are to a satisfactory standard for it to be an engaging film. It also avoids being too preachy, rather it just tells Abby’s story as what happened.

With the lack of theatrical releases outside the United States, the producer of Unplanned has set up a website where pro-life advocates from around the world can contribute to the film being screened to a wider audience and which also contains other promotional resources.

Unplanned is a powerful movie which can impact real change in our current culture of abortion. With unborn lives in the balance, it is the duty of all who want to end this practise to convince others to see this film and see it easily accessible to a wider audience.

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