"Formerly a Planned Parenthood director, I now work to save lives."
This is the tag line featured on the website of Abby Johnson, a Bryan, Texas native and the subject of the Christian biopic Unplanned. Produced by Pure Flix—an entertainment company known for producing Christian films—Unplanned follows a long line of Christian films, most notably God's Not Dead and The Case for Christ.
Released on March 29, the film follows the true story of Abby Johnson, a Planned Parenthood clinic director turned pro–life activist. Abby (played by Ashley Bratcher) is a devoted Planned Parenthood volunteer who quickly rises through the ranks of the organization. She's named Employee of the Year in 2008 and is soon appointed director of the Bryan, Texas clinic. Raised in a conservative household, Abby goes against the beliefs of her religious parents and husband by devoting herself to the clinic, patients, and the pro–choice cause. But when Abby is asked to assist with an ultrasound–guided abortion, everything changes. She witnesses the 13–week old fetus resisting and fighting the vacuum tube used for abortion procedure, and eventually losing its life at the hands of the abortionist. She is increasingly disturbed as her boss, Cheryl (Robia Scott)—the Texas division head of PP—emphasizes the importance of abortions to the company's financial success and describes them as "low–cost, high–margin" moneymakers. It is then that Abby realizes the sins she's committing and makes a dramatic transformation. She resigns from Planned Parenthood, finds refuge in the pro–life organization now known as 40 Days for Life, and dedicates her life to exposing abortion for the true evil it is.
Unplanned is a bad movie, but this comes at no surprise. Subpar storytelling, low production value, and campy performances are all recurring qualities present in many Pure Flix films—and Unplanned is no exception. In this film, we are met with one–dimensional characters whose identities are based solely on their stances on abortion, and a jarring amount of blood and gore that earned the Christian film an uncharacteristic R–rating. While these things make for a less–than–enjoyable movie–going experience, they are just symptoms of the real problem with this film.
Unplanned is not the harrowing story of redemption and repentance it markets itself to be. It is a politically–charged piece of propaganda disguising itself with a thin veil of piety and righteousness. Coming at a time of intense political polarization, Unplanned was created and released with a very specific agenda. The film's goal is to preach to the pro–life choir and convert those who remain undecided on the issue by using the name of God to do it. The danger in that lies in the extremely one–sided portrayal of both pro–life and pro–choice advocates and the use of the Christian religion to validate the film's misrepresentation.
The film portrays patients of Abby's Texas clinic as lost souls who give in to horrible sin and get abortions, instead of being strong, resisting temptation, and carrying their babies to term. Not once do they ever consider the unique and individual situations of these women or the possibility that their lives might be better lived without an infant to care for. Abortion is a sin and the only option women should have is to become mothers. The realities of illegal abortion are never mentioned in the film either.
Then we have the portrayals of the leaders of both the pro–choice and pro–life movements. Cheryl is the power–hungry, Cruella de Vil–esque leader of Texas' Planned Parenthood division that pushes Abby to "sell" as many abortions as possible, as they are the organization's bread and butter. While Cheryl is (ironically) the most interesting character in the whole film, her cut—throat, corporate attitude is one that seems highly unrealistic. At one point she refuses a patient an ambulance because she doesn't want to give protesters outside of the clinic a reason to view Planned Parenthood in a negative light. Given that PP is a healthcare provider, the refusal to call an ambulance for fear of bad press doesn't make any sense. Contrarily we have the holier–than–thou members of 40 Days of Life who navigate the rocky terrain with a "kill them with kindness" attitude. They patiently wait for Abby to inevitably see the error in her ways and embrace her once she defects. The rowdy and, often times, violent protesters that camp outside of the clinics are brushed aside and hardly recognized.
Finally, the amount of misinformation in this film is baffling. Planned Parenthood is portrayed as an abortion factory with quotas to meet and money to make—no matter what the cost. This film mentions nothing about HIV screenings, STD tests, hormone therapies, breast examinations, or sexual education—which are all services offered by Planned Parenthood, often at a free or reduced cost. There is no mention of the countless lives being saved by Planned Parenthood everyday through any of these services, nor is there any mention of the danger brought on by prohibiting women from caring for their right to reproductive health services.
The dangers of a movie like Unplanned are clear. But what's even clearer, after viewing the film, is that organizations like Planned Parenthood need to be protected. Instead of paying ten dollars to see this movie, you can go donate to Planned Parenthood.