Unplanned: Just Anti-Abortion Propaganda or “God’s Plan”?
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Photo: YouTube / Unplanned Movie

Unplanned: Just Anti-Abortion Propaganda or “God’s Plan”?


Censorship comes in many forms. A recent pro-life movie resonated in American society, prompting a national controversy, becoming a real problem for the pro-choice movement. And there’re some compelling reasons for it.

Unplanned was theatrically released on March 29, though the preparation for a new nationwide scandal started much earlier.

From the very beginning of the secret shooting of the film the creators tried, first, to hide the movie’s underlying political agenda, and, secondly, to widen the target audience of the movie, to not be limited only to “pro-lifers.” They managed to kill two birds with one stone by appealing to the believers’ feelings. It’s no surprise, considering that the directors, Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon, were familiar with “godly cinematography” after their work on Do You Believe?, God’s Not Dead I and II, The Book of Daniel, and What If.

In addition, the film was produced by Pure Flix, a Christian-oriented film company known for producing “Christ-centered movies” and striving to “make a difference for His name” by influencing the global culture for Christ through media.

Their new masterpiece is far from educational; it has the rather clear goal of influencing how people think, since it touches the very essence of human existence – the right to live.

What is the film about?

Based on a memoir by Abby Johnson – an anti-abortion activist who worked for eight years in a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas – Unplanned tells “the dramatic true story” of a girl coming from a pro-life family who somehow took up the post of director at an abortion clinic of the U.S.’s largest family planning organization – Planned Parenthood. The movie, of course, was not without its “crying moments,” like Abby’s “spiritual awakening” after personally assisting with an abortion.

Abby – who grew out of ushering women from their cars past the protesters at the gates, oversaw over 22,000 abortions and, moreover, confessed she had two abortions herself – was born again. Her new worldview formed in the procedure room, in the blood of the unborn, gifted her with a strong belief that abortion – any abortion – is wrong.

She joined the activist organization that became 40 Days for Life, and at the end of the movie, it says that another anti-abortion group, And Then There Were None, has gotten 500 workers to drop out of what it describes as “the abortion industry.” It offers a phone number for others just like them to call.

The description from IMDB reads:

“Abby Johnson is one of the youngest Planned Parenthood directors in the U.S. After she is asked to assist in an abortion at thirteen weeks gestation she instead resigns, becoming a pro-life activist.”

Here is the official trailer:

“If Abby can, anyone can”

It’s been about 10 years since Abby, “one of the youngest Planned Parenthood clinic directors in the nation,” left her post in the clinic (she had even been named Employee of the Year in 2008).

October 5, 2009, was the day that the enlightened Abby Johnson walked into the office of the co-founder of the pro-life movement 40 Days For Life, Shawn Carney, saying “she’d had a change of heart on abortion.” And no sooner had she “seen the light” than she zealously started to urge young students “not to be silent on this issue,” as if trying to rectify the mistakes of her youth.

Abby Johnson speaks to roughly 300 people at the University Memorial Center's Glenn Miller Ballroom on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder. / Photo by Jeremy Papasso, Daily camera

Carney, who is also the author of The Beginning of the End of Abortion, said “after seeing Abby’s transformation from running a Planned Parenthood clinic to joining our efforts to help women and save lives” he believes that anyone can change their mind on abortion.

Actually, it would be quite odd if he felt otherwise. Abby – who he affectionately called “a new convert” – has become virtually an icon of the pro-life movement, a kind of metaphor for those who hasn’t chosen “the path of truth” yet.

“There may be an Abby Johnson in the abortion facility where you live. Please discern if God is calling you to LEAD a 40 Days for Life campaign to change hearts and minds where you live,” Carney encouraged.

Shawn Carney with Abby Johnson / 40 Days for Life

Working with 40 Days for Life, Abby seems to have caught something religious from its employees and directors who are all Christians as even when she became a public figure she explained that – although she didn’t want the publicity – it was God’s plan.

“This is not what I planned for my life. But God set this up for me– and it would be the wrong thing, to turn away from something that He has planned for my life,” she said.

Has anyone had the thought that Abby simply lost her nerve after being called “baby killer” all the time, and after hearing the news about the murder of an abortionist she personally knew? What about the nagging voice in Abby’s head convincing her to avoid telling her mother about her job (we hear it in the movie: “Never trust a decision you don’t want your mom to know about”)?

Abby used to hear throughout her eight years of her work at the clinic: “Make sure you don’t take the same route home every day from work. A pro-lifer could be following you home;” “When pro-lifers pray for you, they are praying you go to hell;” “Don’t go to the clinic alone. There could be a pro-lifer hiding out, waiting to attack you when no one is looking.”

No wonder it didn’t take Abby too long to emulate all the good qualities of her new pro-life character and start to totally play up to it. With the ardor of a newcomer she got down to work, leading an anti-abortion ministry, And Then There Were None (ATTWN). Her working experience even let her become an author of two books: the second one, The Walls Are Talking: Former Abortion Clinic Workers Tell Their Stories, released in 2016, is based on the stories of former abortion workers that have come through her ministry. Nice business.

Nevertheless, pro-lifers supported her, the woman who “let the thousands of babies die” and was gullible enough to not even know what she was doing, a wolf in sheep’s clothing hiding behind her naivety.

The filmmakers, however, ultimately managed to play on the believers’ feelings as the results speak for themselves.

Unplanned beat box office expectations and earned back its $6.1 million budget during its opening weekend to end up at number 5 behind the high-budget Dumbo, Us, Captain Marvel, and Five Feet Apart, even outperforming Captain Marvel in per-theater revenue (taking into account it was playing at only one-quarter to one-half the number of theaters as the top four movies.)

On Twitter, such influential politicians as Senator Ted Cruz and Vice President Mike Pence urged their followers to see it.

The movie also received a rare A+ rating from CinemaScore, which tracks audience reactions.

The wave of critique

Unplanned has been dismissed by some critics as propaganda, though the creators argue otherwise.

Roger Moore expressed the hope that “this latest Pure Flix propaganda doesn’t actually incite violence.”

“It’s more pure propaganda from Pure Flix, this time about the subject that has roiled America for the better part of a century — for 50 years of Catholic backed illegality as women’s rights group fought them, and for 50 years after the famous Supreme Court case, Roe vs. Wade, that took abortion out of back alleys and into medical practices across America,” he wrote.

Korey Coleman, a film critic, filmmaker and actor, said the film “serves nobody but the people that made it. It’s lining their pockets.”

The chief film critic for Variety and author of Movie Freak Owen Gleiberman declared that “Unplanned preaches to the pro-life choir, and it does so by making a case against abortion that’s absolutist and extreme, at certain points twisting ‘facts’ into a narrative of conspiracy.” He also said Unplanned “isn’t a good movie, but it’s effective propaganda.”

“There have been films that treated Nazi doctors conducting evil experiments in concentration camps more sympathetically,” said Frank Scheck in the Hollywood Reporter.

The Guardian’s Jordan Hoffman called the movie “ridiculous,” “ham-handed” and “a gory mess.”

“There’s not a single scene that speaks to characters with lives outside their streamlined narrative function; they’re performers in a parable traced over a Chick tract, filmed with a bland competence at odds with the true perversity of the material. Old-school Pure Flix: Welcome back!” quips the A.V. Club’s Vadim Rizov.

Now we must mention some odd inaccuracies in the film.

One of the most heart-wrenching scenes of the film shows a 13-week-old fetus “twisting and fighting for its life” during an abortion procedure. However, Jennifer Villavicencio, a fellow for the nonpartisan American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said that even though a visible head and body can be seen through an ultrasound of a 13-week-old fetus, the whole scene remains misleading and inaccurate, as a fetus at that stage does not have the neurological passageways to feel pain or register fear.

“There is no neurological capability for awareness of danger,” Villavicencio told the Times. “That part of the brain is simply not there yet.”

Solomon and Konzelman, however, defended the above-mentioned scene calling it “faithful to Johnson’s personal account” and claimed that Anthony Levatino, who is a retired obstetrician-gynecologist and longtime anti-abortion activist (and also the doctor in the scene), had approved it.

Planned Parenthood, the Devil’s lair for pro-lifers, is depicted as a “billion-dollar corporation” with donors including Bill Gates, George Soros, and Warren Buffett. One of the characters even compared abortions to the “fries and soda” making profit for fast food chains.

“Fast-food outlets break even on their hamburgers. The french fries and soda are the low-cost, high-margin items. Abortion is our fries and soda!”

In real life, Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit and, according to its website, abortions make up only 3% of its overall health services.

Another ridiculous fact about the REAL story of Abby Johnson is that the woman actually never witnessed a doctor terminate a 13-week pregnancy, which is proved by the clinic records indicating Johnson hadn’t observed any abortions on the day she claimed she did.

Cary Solomon, the movie’s co-director, preferred to shrug off the criticism.

“We didn’t turn this into a propaganda piece. We refused to do that.

“We wanted to tell a true-life story and let the truth be interpreted by people that see it,” Solomon told AFP. “It’s an exact retelling of the book. Everything in the movie is based on her true story.

“We didn’t fabricate anything; we didn’t make anything up.”

If it is not propaganda, then what it is?

Not everyone knows that out of fear for societal tensions and potential protests due to the subject matter the $6 million movie was shot in secret in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Moreover, everyone involved with the film signed a confidentiality agreement, under which they could neither engage in social media posts about the project nor interact with the press.

“While we’re here on-set, we call the movie Redeemed,” said Solomon. “The reason we do that is we don’t want anyone to know we are making Unplanned as a movie. Because it would be very difficult to film if people were trying to burn down the warehouse while we’re in it. Or if protestors show up to scream and throw stones.”

They would definitely throw stones, inasmuch as U.S. history already has an example of an anti-abortion movie that contributed to the pro-life movement: The Silent Scream, a 1984 anti-abortion educational film, directed by Jack Duane Dabner became a popular tool in the hands of the anti-abortion campaign.

“As a propaganda piece for the right-to-life movement, it will score. Those who advocate the right of women to abortions under law will sorry about the effect this film may have upon the law, and rightly so,” Gadsden Times’ Tom Braden wrote about the Silent Scream in 1985.

“As a propaganda piece it is eloquent. As a statement of fact it does not deserve attention.”

The fragments of Tom Braden’s article “‘The Silent Scream’ is not accurate.” Feb.28, 1985 / Gadsden Times, Google News Archive

The story repeats itself.

Firstly, the Silent Scream was narrated by Bernard Nathanson, NARAL Pro-Choice America founder, and an abortion provider, who performed thousands of abortions and then became a pro-life activist. Unplanned is based on the true story of a former director of an anti-abortion clinic, who oversaw thousands of abortions and… yes, chose to join the pro-life movement.

Secondly, the Silent Scream was criticized by members of the medical community as misleading; Unplanned is also criticized both by movie critics and doctors.

Finally, the Silent Scream was praised by President Reagan, screened for reporters and anti-abortion activists in the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House and sent to every member of the U.S. Congress and the Supreme Court as a “a powerful testament for the pro-life position.”

“Anti-abortion groups have embraced it as the prize weapon in their armament and are clamoring for Nathanson to speak before them,” the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Although Donald Trump has not yet expressed his attitude to Unplanned, it’s not a stretch to assume he’s definitely not against it as he decided to screen another controversial anti-abortion movie Gosnell at the White House.

Marc A. Thiessen, an author, columnist, and political commentator, considers that “abortion supporters don’t want you to see Unplanned because ‘there are millions’ like Abby and they just don’t want anyone to be converted to a new ‘religion.’” No, Mr. Thiessen, pro-choice activists just don’t want the film creators to mess with anyone’s mind, that’s it.

“Unplanned obstacles”

Paradoxically, the film was assigned an R rating requiring anyone who is under 17 and wants to watch the movie to be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. R-rated films’ usually have “Strong Brutal Violence, Pervasive Language, Some Strong Sexual Content, and Drug Material.”

“I do think that it was definitely agenda-motivated, but in the end, it ended up working to our favor. We got a lot of press because of it,” Abby Johnson told Hill.TV. “I’m not going to disagree that abortion is R-rated.”

“‘Unplanned’ is an R-rated film which has no MPAA cautions for profanity, nudity, sex or violence… except for violence directly associated with the abortion process,” the filmmakers told MovieGuide. “Ironically, the MPAA seems to be indirectly endorsing the pro-life position: namely that abortion is an act of violence.”

The “joke” is that in the U.S. there’re several states allowing girls under 18 to get an abortion without telling their parents.

Here’s the list of American states disaggregated according to the degree of strictness of the rules:

Permission of BOTH parents (possible judicial bypass): Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota.

Permission of ONE parent (possible judicial bypass): Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming, Wisconsin.

BOTH parents must be told of the decision several hours before the abortion (possible judicial bypass): Minnesota.

ONE parent must be told of the decision several hours before the abortion (possible judicial bypass): Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Montana, New Hampshire, South Dakota, West Virginia, Maryland.

No parental involvement: Alaska, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.), Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington.

Unplanned: Just Anti-Abortion Propaganda or “God’s Plan”?

Sean McDowell, the co-author of the soon-to-be-released book So The Next Generation Will Know, liked the film and even took his 11-year old daughter to see it. He asked her later about the rationality of the choice of an R rating by Motion Picture Association of America.

The girl answered, “So they think it’s worse to see a fake act of abortion on screen than to actually have one. That’s nuts.”

Another “act of hatred” the filmmakers had to face came from an unexpected source. The official Unplanned Twitter account was temporarily suspended the day after its theatrical debut on March 29. The company attributed it to a technical problem, saying the account was not suspended on purpose, but rather was linked to another account that had violated Twitter’s rules.

The film’s star, Ashley Bratcher, tweeted about the suspension.

However, even after it had been restored, some users had trouble getting their “follow” clicks to stick.

“Big Tech’s attempted censorship of @UnplannedMovie is deeply troubling,” Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted. “Why is the Left so afraid of people seeing this powerful story?”

After the movie’s account was reinstated there appeared the confident answer to the Senator’s question: “I think we all know why. Perhaps it’s because we are moving the needle, making a difference and changing hearts and minds.”

“It is a sad time we live in when corporations can remove individuals’ freedom of speech at will. When did we empower these corporations to have such authority? More importantly, why do we empower them to do so?” Cary Solomon, co-writer and co-director of the film, said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter.

It’s not over yet. Unplanned was launched with little advertising as most TV networks rejected the film’s trailer as too political to touch. Lifetime, Travel Channel, Cooking Channel, HGTV, Food Network, Hallmark Channel and USA Networks all reportedly declined to run ads for the film.

“We were looking to spend money, but they didn’t want to get involved,” John Sullivan, a producer for Unplanned, told THR.


This movie is not stopping. We are going full speed ahead. ???????? In theaters NOW #Unplanned #StandWithUnplanned

A post shared by UnplannedMovie (@unplannedmovie) on

Pro-life or pro-choice?

Gallup reports that Americans are evenly divided on self-identifying as pro-choice or pro-life, though everyone knows it even without Gallup.

A pretty classic discussion between ‘pro-lifers’ and ‘pro-choicers’ / PrtSc: The Harvard Crimson

Actually, both movements have something in common: they struggle for the rights; the main question is WHOSE rights.

What’s next? Only time will tell.

Author: USA Really