“Unplanned”: Realistic Portrayal of Abortion Advocates & Opponents

“Unplanned”: Realistic Portrayal of Abortion Advocates & Opponents April 3, 2019

I saw Unplanned last night and thought it was well-done. What was particularly realistic and praiseworthy, was how it dramatized good and bad on both sides, and (most importantly) good and bad within individuals, which is how people really are. Solzhenitsyn insightfully remarked that the line of good and evil runs through each human heart.

Unplanned showed (based on the real-life experiences of Abby Johnson) both dumb, harmful abortion protesters and compassionate, loving pro-life prayer warriors who simply expressed love to Abby: didn’t even try to argue about abortion with her (the ones she was friendly with and eventually turned to for help after her change of mind).

As someone who has been in many rescues and prayer vigils at clinics, rallies and marches and so forth, that really touched me. And I can testify that the vast majority of pro-life activists (at least the ones I have observed, which is much more than a few), are closer to that model than to the fools with their taunts and seeming personal derision, etc.

One time I was at a rally in downtown Detroit on January 22nd, and spotted an anti-Semitic wacko (as indicated by his sign). I told someone in leadership about him and he was immediately asked to leave. He didn’t represent us. He had nothing to do with us. His sign didn’t even have anything to do with the abortion issue.

I have never ever (cross my heart!) seen someone acting like an idiot on the pro-life side at any of the 25 or so rescues I have participated in. But the other side regularly engaged in verbal abuse, did things like choke women and bite people (a good friend of mine — who was key in my own Catholic conversion — was bitten).

The film also portrayed Planned Parenthood workers who seemed normal, even likable, in many ways besides their blindness to the evil they were participating in: as well as the almost purely evil clinic administrator. I’ve seen both of those types, too, in my 37 years of pro-life activism. Once I talked for about fifteen minutes with a woman who ran a clinic. It was very much like some of the scenes in the movie.

There are a few legitimate criticisms of the movie, as my friend, Catholic film critic Deacon Steven D. Greydanus has pointed out. In this instance I agree with my friend Al Kresta, who has a great saying about other people doing things that we may not totally agree with: “I prefer their way of doing it to my way of not doing it.” In other words, this film may not be cinematically  perfect, but at least it was an effort to do something, and it packed plenty of emotional power and punch. I think it is a net gain by a wide margin. But sure, it could have been even better. That’s how things usually are.

Unplanned will produce converts to the pro-life cause because people love stories and drama. That’s what it can accomplish through the visual and time-honored techniques of drama, that writing can rarely accomplish. I just put up an old dialogue of mine from 2004 in which I actually persuaded a fellow Christian to move from “pro-choice” to pro-life (with exceptions for hard cases). But that was the only time in memory that I can remember ever accomplishing that (by God’s grace).

But with this movie, I feel virtually certain that many thousands of people either on the fence or with the slightest doubt about their “pro-choice” position, will at the very least be significantly moved, and many (brave and broad-minded enough to consider a viewpoint different from their own) will be shaken to the core. You have to plant the seed to see the eventual fruit that results.

At long last we have a  realistic dramatic portrayal of abortion as it actually is, of Planned Parenthood clinic workers as they actually are, of the fears and terrors of women in the horrible situation of considering abortion, and of pro-life activists as they are (including the bad apples that can be found in any human group). We’ve known for years that viewing ultrasounds of preborn babies has a powerful positive effect on women considering abortion. Now anyone can see such an ultrasound, and a chilling ultrasound of an abortion in process, through the medium of cinema.

Let’s all pray for people who are either in favor of legal abortion or on the fence, to go see this film. That’s the difficult task, as we live in a world where everyone is in their faction and “tribe” (with very stark political and ethical / social divides) and rarely constructively interact (or interact at all) with viewpoints other than their own.

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Photo credit: Unplanned movie poster (Pure Flix)

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