I thought I knew what to expect from this movie. And I thought I’d come out of it with tons of ideas for a punchy review.
I was wrong.
It’s not a typical, low-budget, happy fluffy Christian film. It’s extremely well made on every front, and it’s heavy—nothing fluffy about it at all. Frankly, I’m finding it very hard to write anything at all about a movie that I basically cried through.
Unplanned is the true story of Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood clinic director and employee of the year. She was once a relentless defender of her work because she believed it was the best way to help women in crisis.
I’m fiercely pro-life. Protecting the unborn has always mattered to me. This wasn’t the first time I’d shed tears for the millions of tiny humans that have been brutally murdered in America. At the same time, though, I’ve never been personally close to it. I grew up in a community where basically everyone was pro-life. Unplanned brought things to the screen in a personal way that I’ve thought about but never really understood at a heart level.
The film fearlessly addressed how Planned Parenthood, under the guise of a “women’s health clinic” and claiming to minimize abortions, actually uses abortion as its primary source of revenue. In the movie, not only are the young mothers kept in the dark about PP’s practices—in many cases the volunteers are, too.
The turning point of the film (don’t worry, not a spoiler—we see it in the first 5 minutes of the movie and then go back in time to witness Abby Johnson’s story leading up to that point) is when Abby, as clinic director, is called into the back room to help with a “procedure.” After years of working at Planned Parenthood, Abby had never actually been in the room while an abortion was performed. She guided the ultrasound probe, and for the first time she watched as the fetus was sucked from the womb with a catheter and dumped in pieces into a vial. The fetus struggled for its life, squirming to get away from the catheter, and that sight was what broke Abby’s heart so that she decided to resign from Planned Parenthood.
Unplanned is full of heart-wrenching depictions of young women in crisis, in a variety of situations; for all of them, abortion was the only solution they knew. And Planned Parenthood, far from making abortion the last resort, backed them into a corner, made them feel even more hopeless and alone than they already were, and sold it to them.
There are graphic scenes in the movie, nothing gratuitous or uncalled-for. Despite its “R” rating, in my opinion a “PG-13” rating would be more appropriate; younger teens should definitely understand both the horrors of abortion and the hope that there are other ways. Anyone on either side of the issue should see it, as well as those who haven’t decided.
Unplanned is based on Abby Johnson’s book by the same title; I’m buying it so I can go deeper into the issue. There might be things I could critique—for example, some might take issue with starting the film with the climax. Maybe the message could have been portrayed more subtly—but honestly, I don’t think so. Abby, played by Ashley Bratcher, comes right out and says it at the beginning of the film: this might be tough to swallow, but it’s my story. I think her story is told powerfully yet tastefully, boldly yet with grace and gentleness. As a character, Abby is personal, relatable, and genuine, and her character development is compelling.
The movie in no way condemns women in unintended pregnancies or who have had abortions. More than ever, my heart goes out to women in crisis pregnancies and to the tiny, beautiful lives that are ended every day. It brings the truth to light while sending a message of hope, love, and redemption. Everyone, regardless of your stance on the issue, should go see it, and do so with an open mind and heart.