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Op-Ed: Movie Review of “Unplanned,” the story of a Planned Parenthood director turning into anti-abortion activist

It is based on a true story from a 2011 book by Abby Johnson, who worked for Planned Parenthood for eight years.

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By Gloria C. Endres

When my dear friend Christine invited me to join her at a preview showing on March 28 of the movie Unplanned at the Riverview Plaza Stadium 17 on South Columbus Boulevard, I was curious about the story behind the film produced by Pure Flix Studio and directed by Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon. It is based on a true story from a 2011 book by Abby Johnson, who worked for Planned Parenthood for eight years. It received an “R” rating by the Motion Picture Association of America.

“Unplanned” begins with the shocking culmination of Abby’s journey from volunteer counselor in 2001 to honored full director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas to her resignation in 2009.

Johnson was asked to assist at an abortion in progress of a 13-week-old fetus. Up to that time, she fully believed and counseled other women that the fetus could not feel pain. At this point, she and the audience can see graphic images of an ultrasound of that abortion. In her book, Abby wrote, “For the briefest moment the baby looked as if it were being wrung like a dishcloth, twirled and squeezed. And then it crumpled and began disappearing into the cannula before my eyes. The last thing I saw was the tiny perfectly formed backbone sucked into the tube, and it was gone.” We could all see the fetus struggling to avoid the vacuum tube that was gradually ripping him apart. This is the most powerful scene in the movie. It made me cry.

The movie continues with Johnson’s background. She was originally attracted to Planned Parenthood because she believed it provided necessary health services to women. She trusted that it truly wanted to help women prevent unwanted pregnancies with birth control. She counseled young women seeking abortions that it was all fine. Nothing to worry about. She herself had had two abortions during her first failed marriage. Only with her devoted second husband did she finally give birth to a little girl.

The movie also depicts Abby’s encounters with pro-life activists like Shawn Carney of the Coalition for Life (now known as 40 Days for Life), who stood by the fence around the clinic and tried to talk clients out of getting an abortion. There were also outspoken anti-abortion activists who harassed Abby and her clients. She even got death threats.

One character who impressed me most was the Planned Parenthood regional manager who kept advancing Abby and encouraging her to promote “business.” She made it clear that she expected her protege to increase the number of abortion clients. It was always about profit. She was sorely disappointed when Abby met with Shawn and confessed to him that she could no longer assist women in obtaining abortions. In one very dramatic scene, Abby cries over the 22,000 abortions performed under her watch.

Of course, Planned Parenthood fired back and sued her. The trial gave Abby Johnson national coverage, and she won her case.

Abby Johnson and her husband, Doug, were brilliantly played by Ashley Bratcher and Brooks Ryan. Soon after her resignation, Abby began volunteering with the Coalition for Life. She is shown on the other side of the fence counseling women not to enter the clinic. She also runs a pro-life ministry, And Then There Were None, which seeks to help abortion clinic workers to leave the industry.

After the film, we were addressed by young millennial women from the organization “Generation for Life.” They passed out information about how to get involved in the pro-life movement.

Gloria C. Endres

South Philly Resident 

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