by Adam Mill
One thing you can say about “Unplanned” is that it is ambitious. The film tops “Gosnell” in forcing the audience to confront the true nature of a legal abortion in a sanctioned clinic.
Even given the advanced medical equipment and sterile conditions, the true nature of an abortion horrifies. But that isn’t the point of the movie.
Although it’s hard to imagine anyone short of a hardcore zealot making it through the entire film with his pro-choice beliefs intact, the intended audience of “Unplanned” does not appear to be the pro-choice crowd. The movie seems more to be directed at turning existing pro-life opinion into effective action.
The film’s critical scene depicts the contrast between two kinds of pro-life responses. On one side are grandstanding protesters screaming at women as they walk into a clinic. As the demonstrators bombard these pregnant women with accusations of promiscuity and murder, this moves moves the sympathy needle toward the volunteers protecting their patients as they scurry into the clinic.
A contrasting group of protesters employ the tools Jesus taught: Love, forgiveness, understanding, and prayer. They calmly entreat the abortion-seeking women just to talk to them, tell them their story. They offer help through counseling and adoption services. They offer understanding and forgiveness to women who have made mistakes but who can still be reached through the healing redemption of divine forgiveness.
The movie retells the story of a former director of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic named Abby Johnson. As the plot unfolds, Abby begins to interact with the gentler protesters. They learn each other’s names and the protesters inexplicably offer her smiles and encouragement, even congratulating her on a promotion. At one point, Abby lashes out at them with a political speech about reproductive rights. Abby is shocked to learn that the protesters have an intellectual argument, not just a faith-based one, that leaves her speechless.
Little by little, the people in Abby’s environment encourage her to take a different path. Abby resists, seeing them as misguided. She feels irrevocably committed to the abortion rights cause because of her personal history with abortion. Her husband, an earnest pro-lifer, swallows his personal distaste for her chosen career and nevertheless showers her with love and support.
As Abby rises through the Planned Parenthood hierarchy, she begins to realize that some of her assumptions about the morality of Planned Parenthood’s work just aren’t true. The core focus of Planned Parenthood is not birth control or prenatal counseling. The money that pays her salary comes from abortion and she’s trained to sell abortions as a product. Planned Parenthood purposely expands operations to accommodate later and later abortions beyond Abby’s red line of fetal viability.
She also learns that the clinic is actually an assembly line or, rather, a disassembly line for abortion. When one patient has complications due to the negligence of the performing doctor, Abby is forbidden from calling an ambulance to aid the woman because it might open up the clinic to public criticism.
Early on, Abby delivers her sales pitch to reluctant customers, reassuring them that the fetus growing inside of them is incapable of feeling pain. But when she’s forced to watch a procedure on a sonogram, she realizes this is a lie. The unborn baby clearly reacts in pain and attempts to flee the vacuum hose. “They all do that,” the performing doctor quips in response to her shock.
When Abby does switch sides, Planned Parenthood sends an army of lawyers to silence her. Abby successfully defeated these efforts in court with the help of a plucky attorney’s pro bono work. Abby’s experience calls to mind the use of a prosecutor to retaliate against Project Veritas when it recorded a video of Planned Parenthood openly discussing selling the remains of aborted fetuses. While it is a felony to sell human tissue, that’s not the crime that got prosecuted. Instead a pro-abortion prosecutor exacted vengeance on behalf of Planned Parenthood to deter future abortion-rights dissenters from exposing the ghoulish trade to public scrutiny.
While watching “Unplanned,” tears of impotent rage wet the viewer’s cheeks. But the story of “Unplanned” demonstrates clearly that the monstrousness of abortion cannot be conquered with anger or violence. The key success of the pro-life group depicted in the movie is to offer the women in crisis a choice. The abortion industry thrives on women motivated by shame and fear over their pregnancies. Offer forgiveness and support to those women and you take away Planned Parenthood’s most powerful marketing device.
At the end of the movie, the creators display a written message with instructions to abortion workers about how to get assistance if they decide to quit their jobs. The pro-life activists promise help with job placement and support. And yes, prayers do work. Near the end, when Abby joins the protesters, one of them expresses doubt that all of their prayers end up doing anything. Abby gives them a priceless insight: When potential patients saw people praying outside the clinic, the no-show rates would skyrocket.
For a pro-life activist awakened to abortion’s gruesome nature, it must feel impossible to show love and forgiveness towards the abortion practitioners and the women who hire them. Yet, if you are called to take action against abortion, this is what “Unplanned” challenges you to do. The awakening of Abby Johnson is an invaluable victory for the pro-life cause and the story of “Unplanned” is a study of the tools proven effective to replicate this victory. Prayer and love worked on Abby and they remain the most effective weapon in the arsenal of life.
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Adam Mill is a pseudonym. He works in Kansas City, Missouri as an attorney specializing in labor and employment and public administration law. Adam graduated from the University of Kansas and has been admitted to practice in Kansas and Missouri.
Image “Abby Johnson” by Unplanned.