Review: Unplanned

Distributor: Pureflix

Director: Chuck Konzelman & Cary Solomon

Writers: Cary Solomon & Chuck Konzelman

Starring: Ashley Bratcher, Brooks Ryan, Robia Scott

Genre: Drama, Biography

Rating: R

In the United States in 2017, 879,000 babies were aborted and only 1.5% of these were aborted due to rape and incest. Planned Parenthood performs half of those abortions in over 600 facilities and partners with abortion clinics in twelve countries. Abby Johnson is a former clinic director of a Planned Parenthood in Texas. Over her eight years working there, she assisted in aborting over 22,000 children and also had two of her own abortions. In 2009, when she witnessed an abortion procedure for herself, in just days she became pro-life. This biopic centers around her story and exposes the horrifying truths of abortion all based on Abby Johnson’s book Unplanned.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: Honestly, I came out of the film physically sick to my stomach from the things I saw displayed. I had to take a night to process what I’d seen as there are many disturbing and realistic sequences portrayed. Gruesome images of two abortions. One ultrasound-guided abortion that is shown twice where a fetus is torn apart limb by limb (this is shown via ultrasound) and then sucked in a bloody mass into a container. The second was a chemical abortion where Abby takes a pill and experiences extreme cramps as she bleeds profusely all over the bathroom floor, blood runs down her legs, and she vomits. She picks up large blood clots off the tile floor and puts them in the toilet. The most disturbing sequence is when Abby reassembles the decapitated body of an aborted baby. A teenage girl is a victim of malpractice during an abortion and nearly bleeds to death. There is profuse blood on her legs and feet and on the nurses’ hands as they try to save her. A child sees blood from an abortion on her mothers’ shoes.

Language/Crude Humor: Believe it or not, yes, there’s some swearing in a Christian company-made movie. H***, pi**, screwed, and a** are all mentioned once or twice.

Spiritual Content: Pro-life men and women pray outside of the abortion clinic and over a barrel of hazardous waste aka baby parts. Abby attends church. And thankfully, there actually is no in-your-face sermon scene at the end of the movie.

Sexual Content: Many of the women portrayed have had sex out of wedlock. You can almost see Abby’s backside when she’s enduring the chemical-induced abortion.

Drug/Alcohol Reference: Characters briefly drink wine and margaritas. A character is shown with four finished beers in front of him.

Other Negative Content: The insidious and the sick nature of the abortion industry. Planned Parenthood employees lie to patients to manipulate them into abortions or avoid lawsuits. Planned Parenthood higher-ups threaten Abby for daring to disagree with them.

Positive Content: One would think that this was a redemptive story about a woman leaving Planned Parenthood, but seeing as the first scene is Abby witnessing the pivotal abortion procedure this isn’t the case. Pureflix gets some guts and decides to expose the abortion industry for what it really is: it’s a company that takes advantage of women and exploits and lies to them for money.

Review

Because of my history, I was very nervous about seeing this film. I was adopted from a teen mother as were my two younger sisters, so the pro-life message is very personal and close to my heart. I’ve been active in the pro-life movement for years and in my pro-life research, I’ve discovered Abby Johnson. I’ve listened to her testimony and many of her speeches on contraceptives and Planned Parenthood. Her story is nothing short of a miracle and since her conversion from pro-choice to pro-life, she now has eight children and runs an organization called And Then There Were None where she helps people leave the abortion industry.

When she mentioned that her book was being turned into a movie I was really excited that someone had the courage and the distribution power to adapt her story to film. However, when I watched the trailer and saw “The Writers of God’s Not Dead” appear on the screen, I groaned inwardly. I did not want Pureflix to butcher this story and it be turned into another Christian-only film. Still, to this day, I wish they would have cut out that credit because it alienated half the potential audience.

To my great surprise and relief, Pureflix broke some huge barriers for Christian writers writing a Christian film. They didn’t sugarcoat this story. They didn’t end it in a sermon. They didn’t toss in the Christian corn that makes me want to retch. They portrayed Abby’s story as honestly as their budget allowed with all of the taboos: drinking, swearing, and blood–a lot of blood.

Because of the plot structure, I didn’t see this as a redemption story for Abby Johnson since the climactic event is shown in the first scene and then the film rewinds eight years. This film is an expose. Unplanned shows how Abby was convinced that Planned Parenthood was helping women, how she lied to herself to stay in the industry for so long, and how other girls can be persuaded into killing their own babies by abortion clinic employees–and even their own parents or boyfriends. Furthermore, it portrays the bloody horrific details of how abortions are performed and what no one really thinks of–what the clinics do with the remains. All of this was done nearly word for word to what Abby Johnson has said in her many public appearances and the film does have her seal of approval.

Now Unplanned isn’t perfect (though thankfully not imperfect to the level of God’s Not Dead). I do wish they could have made this more palatable for secular audiences with more secular music and not adding ending statements pointing people toward Christian websites. The plot is coherent, but the pacing needed some work. The score seemed inappropriate or cheap and jolted me out of the scene at times. The soundtrack also featured songs from prominent Christian artists (Matthew West and Francesca Battistelli) that may put off secular audiences. Some of the actors were just not good or had moments where their delivery fell flat. But on the flip side there was some decent acting talent. Ashley Bratcher (as Abby Johnson) carried her role where it counted the most. When she endured a chemical abortion, I couldn’t help but tear up watching her in such horrid pain, curling in a ball on the bathroom floor in her own uterine blood.

After walking out of the theater, I was haunted by what I had just seen–even though the movie ends on a positive note. I’ve been reading about abortion and listening to people talk about it for many years but seeing it performed on screen really shook me. I’ve been bothered by a lot of movies or shows. The disturbing images will stick with me but I can always use the “it’s not real” explanation, but with this movie, I can’t. I can’t say it’s not real because this is happening all the time, across the country, across the world. If anything, Unplanned has renewed my vigor that abortion must end.

I commend Pureflix for taking this bold step. I hope that this will open doors for it and other Christian film companies to do more honest and realistic stories. Even with its flaws, Unplanned is a powerful film, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

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Victoria Grace Howell

Victoria Grace Howell is an artist and aspiring speculative fiction writer. She received Teen Writer of the Year in 2014 at the Florida Christian Writers Conference , a conference she attended since 2010, and the Believers Trust Award in 2015. When she's not writing her books or articles, she enjoys drawing her characters, playing the piano and practicing Kung Fu.

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