Abby Johnson’s time with Planned Parenthood began when she was in college. Volunteering for the organization, she thought she was helping and supporting women by becoming a pro-choice champion. After graduation, Johnson was offered a job at the Bryan, TX clinic, eventually went on to become Planned Parenthood’s youngest clinic director and was on-track to become COO of the affiliate.
Unplanned, based on the autobiography of the same name, tells the story of Johnson’s time at Planned Parenthood, and what led her to eventually leave the clinic, causing a firestorm of events that became national news.
For over eight years, Johnson (played by Ashley Bratcher) had been championing the abortion provider’s mission, much to the chagrin of her husband and parents. She thought she was doing God’s work by helping women out of unwanted situations and counselling them on their choices. It wasn’t until she had to assist with an ultrasound led abortion that her mind changed. During the procedure, Johnson sees the fetus move away from the ultrasound probe, and was so disturbed that she turned to the pro-life organization who prayed daily outside the clinic for help.
The movie does not shy away from the horrors of abortion, and for that received an R rating from the MPAA. One of the first scenes in the movie is when Johnson assists with the ultrasound led abortion, and we watch as the doctor is performing the procedure. One minute the baby is there; the next it’s not – plucked from a young girl’s womb and suctioned out into a bloody container near the end of the operating area.
Johnson herself had two abortions before working at Planned Parenthood, and her second, a medical abortion, is shown in graphic detail. Blood pours down her leg as she runs to the bathroom, and clots fall out of her in the shower. An overhead view of Johnson laying on the floor looks like a bloody horror scene.
Later, the movie recounts the horror of an abortion gone wrong, as a patient is shown hemorrhaging in the recovery area. That same patient nearly dies on the hospital bed as a doctor pulls pieces of missed tissue out of her body. Johnson is coached by the director of the clinic to lie to the patient’s father about what’s going on after he becomes distraught that the procedure is taking too long.
Planned Parenthood staff and doctors are portrayed as uncaring individuals who lie, are only concerned about money and increasing their abortion revenue. In several scenes, Johnson’s supervisor Cheryl (played by Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress Robia Scott) looks possessed by the devil herself.
As with most Christian movies, the acting leaves much to be desired. Bratcher does a good job with her role as Johnson, but the rest of the characters don’t turn in the same results, creating flat character arcs around the main protagonist. A scene at the end where a man brings down a Planned Parenthood sign and proclaims “I’ve been waiting to do that my whole life!” is especially cringe-worthy.
However, the filmmakers do an excellent job of combating the media narrative that paints pro-lifers as violent protesters holding damning signs outside abortion clinics. Those people are shown, but it’s emphasized that’s the wrong way to reach the women who visit Planned Parenthood. They instead focus on offering a view of compassion, redemption and hope toward women who have had abortions or may be considering one.
Despite the flaws with the acting, Johnson’s personal story is gripping; especially the scene near the end where she’s grappling with the reality that she oversaw 22,000+ abortions at the Planned Parenthood Clinic. It’s only through God’s grace that she’s healed of the immeasurable guilt she feels for leading so many women to choose to abort.
Of course, Planned Parenthood themselves deny Johnson’s side of things, saying that there’s no record of a patient having an ultrasound-led abortion the day Johnson says she witnessed one. The doctor on duty that day also says he never performed one, and Planned Parenthood records don’t show any patients matching the description or 13-week gestation at the clinic that day either. (We reached out to Planned Parenthood and asked for comments on how they are portrayed in the movie, but received no response.)
Abby Johnson is now the founder and director of And Then There Were None, a nonprofit organization that helps abortion clinic workers leave the abortion industry. To date, Johnson has helped over 500 women leave clinics and find other employment.
Unplanned is the story of her life, told in her voice, and forces us to look at abortion for what it is. If the right people are willing to watch and listen, this film could change hearts and save lives.
Opens everywhere on March 29th. Rated R for disturbing bloody images.
*Special thank you to the Indianapolis Right to Life for letting us screen this movie