Every movie is premised on a worldview and motivated by an agenda, and UNPLANNED is certainly no exception.
But when an agenda is based on a real life story - in this case, that of Abby Johnson, former director of the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Bryan Texas turned pro-lIfe activist - then it is hard not to be impacted by the power of truth and the reality of personal experience.
On one level, this is clearly a pro-life movie. Let’s get that out the way right at the beginning. On another level, however, ⅔ of the movie is seemingly dedicated to the polar opposite view - that of Planned Parenthood’s pro-choice agenda - as that is a big chunk of Abby Johnson’s bio.
The pro-life ‘prayers’ and protesters who stalk the fence outside the Planned Parenthood Clinic - relentless in their commitment to their cause - are stereotypically displayed as weak, serious, narrow-minded, judgemental and pathetic, which is exactly how Abby would have viewed them as she diligently sought to do her job as director of the Planned Parenthood Clinic, and as a stubborn champion for women’s rights and for women in crisis.
But pro-life or pro-choice, this movie is, at its core, about abortion - clear and simple. ‘Nobody ever said abortion was pretty.’ [Abby Johnson]
UNPLANNED has been labelled by liberal critics as an absolutist and extremist propaganda movie.
No-one is denying their right, or freedom, to express that view, and it is certainly expected. That is the beauty of living in a society where freedom of press and freedom of speech are protected as a constitutional right.
The irony for me however - (and I obviously come with my own personal framework and view on abortion and the rights of the unborn) - is that the facts and reality of abortion, as well as the merciless and mercenary clinical mission of Planned Parenthood displayed in this movie, cannot be construed as anything but ‘absolute’ and ‘extreme.’
This was Abby Johnson’s world for 8 years, and she has earned the right to speak of what occurred on that side of the fence, behind closed doors, and in procedure back rooms.
On Abby’s first day as a Planned Parenthood volunteer, she is told by another volunteer: ‘Just distract any girl coming for an abortion from the harassing voices of the protesters. Make sure yours is the only voice she hears.’
Be warned, UNPLANNED does not shy away from the visually graphic details of the medical procedure of an ultrasound-guided abortion, as well as Abby’s personal experience of taking the chemical drug, RU-486, to induce an early stage abortion. Abby’s promotion to the POC room (Products of Conception room, sometimes referred to as the ‘Pieces of Children’ room) is in-your-face, hard-to-ignore reality. These and other scenes are the reason for the movie’s 16+ age restriction. Although disturbing and shocking, all these scenes are placed within a carefully constructed docudrama storyline.
A sobering thought after watching this movie - left or right, liberal or conservative - is that we can all be ‘brainwashed’ or ‘indoctrinated’ if we impose our own self-righteous definitions of truth on reality, and when we rely on our personal interpretations of morality.
That is why absolute truth and facts can be so offensive. When faced with hardcore reality, which UNPLANNED forces us to do, it requires us to ponder our belief systems, tap into our consciences, and critically question our ‘politically correct’ worldviews.
After 8 years and 22 000 abortions on her watch, Abby resigned from her position as Clinic director after being faced with the visual horror of an ultrasound-guided abortion when asked to assist the doctor during the procedure. She is then threatened, sued and taken to court by the multi-million dollar industry that is Planned Parenthood.
From the statistics, there is no denying that there are thousands of young girls and women who, often in crisis, have had abortions. I applaud the directors of the movie in handling this aspect with much humanity, sensitivity and gentleness. For any who watch this movie who have had an abortion, you will realise you are not alone and that there is hope after abortion.
After her resignation, Abby converts to the ‘other side’ and becomes a pro-life activist. She then says, ‘I need to go to the fence.’
For me, that is the foundational challenge in this movie: ‘We need to go to the fence.’
The movie reinforces, in the face of undeniable medical facts of the unborn in utero, that the issue of abortion does not allow us to be ambivalent, apathetic, naive or gullible. We cannot sit on the fence. We have to decide which side of the fence we are on, no matter the repercussions.
UNPLANNED clearly portrays abortion as a matter of life and death, and we cannot remain silent. The issue also extends way beyond a woman’s right to choose what she can do with her body. This is about the body and life of the unborn and who is going to speak for them.
Even though you may need to overlook some ‘Christianised’ sentimentalism and anomalies, UNPLANNED is a movie that is likely to affect you at a deep emotional level, and you will need some time to process it. But it is definitely worth watching (for guys and girls), and will hopefully lead to some real and life-changing conversations.
Watch the official trailer
Click to listen to Matthew West’s song written for the movie, UNPLANNED.