Brief Review of Unplanned

Brief Review of Unplanned April 12, 2019

There is one thing that I really did not like about the film Unplanned.

At the end of the movie, Abby (the repentant former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic) weeps and speaks to the two children she aborted, saying “I’m sorry I didn’t love you enough… I’m sorry I sacrificed you at the altar of convenience” (or something close to that).

I don’t think many women or girls have abortions simply out of convenience. I think that trivializes their experience. They have abortions for many reasons, but mere convenience is rarely the explanation.

They seek abortion because they are being coerced or even threatened by parents, boyfriends, husbands, or coaches.

They seek abortions because they are terrified — terrified of the stigma they will face at school or at work; of the wrath or disappointment of their parents; of being abandoned by the child’s father; of losing their college scholarship; of losing their employment; of forcing an existing child (or children) into poverty if yet another mouth to feed is brought into the household; of having a nervous breakdown if they have another child to care for, especially a disabled child.

Particularly when a woman is young and unmarried, an unplanned pregnancy is far more than an inconvenience. It’s overwhelming. Under the best of circumstances, raising a child is a lifetime commitment; it involves a life of sacrifice and near-constant stress. It’s difficult enough when you choose to do it and have support. It feels like a nightmare when you don’t.

To characterize this decision as one of convenience demonstrates a shocking level of ignorance and insensitivity.

Real pro-lifers, people who have seriously engaged with these young women on the front lines, get this. Fake pro-lifers, whose activism consists primarily of listening faithfully to conservative talk radio, opining on Facebook, and supporting Donald Trump, don’t get it, and don’t seem to want to. If only I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone screech JUST CLOSE YOUR LEGS, or shame them for not using birth control, as if birth control never fails.

Abortion is evil, but so is the failure to provide more comprehensive help to women and girls with crisis pregnancies. They deserve better, and so do their children.


Catherine Alexander is a lapsed Carmelite who lives in the Deep South. She is interested in Catholic spirituality, politics, and women’s issues.


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  • Michael Schaefer

    The writer shouldn’t say much about this subject if he or she is not willing to research it. The 2nd paragraph makes it obvious.

  • Eris, elder daughter of Nyx

    I really wish people wouldn’t trivialize what it meant to become a parent. I’ve known a wide range of parents (single parents, parents who are separated but co-parenting, and married parents), and it’s not a matter of “convenience.” People struggle to keep their jobs, to keep their housing, to stay in school, to navigate social groups (not be rejected by friends, churches, family), and more. One family that I know who isn’t wealthy at all had to move when the wife got unexpectedly pregnant because their apartment had a residency cap (only so many people can live in the apartment). I’m not saying the residency cap was ultimately wrong (I understand that there were reasons for it), I’m saying that if they hadn’t been able to pull together enough money to move and afford the increased rent, the whole situation could have been a disaster, not an “inconvenience” (which is what it ended up being, because they did in fact have enough money).

  • Brandon Roberts

    as a pro choice person at least strawwoman is entertainingly unrealistic.

  • John

    The shortcomings and difficulties of life will always exist, but I don’t think they can be used trump the choice of life. People overcome, people find support, people rise up, people change. So, should a choice for life be pitted against the possibility of real difficulties? Are those equal values?

    Also, what did you think about the test of the movie?

  • Noelle

    I disagree. I think she chose to put a strong point in a gracious manner. “I don’t think” is not an expression of ignorance or research failure. It’s a courteous way of saying “you are totally missing the mark and mischaracterizing the actual experience and motivations that go into getting an abortion.” She’s softening her statement out of kindness.

    There’s plenty of evidence supporting what she’s saying. Her perspective also is a charitable and compassionate (e.g., Christilike) deference to the lived experience of those making that choice.

    The last paragraph makes it clear that she doesn’t think abortion is a moral good. She is simply being truthful and not pandering to the false dichotomies being thrown around out there. That is not easy and deserves respect.

    That said, if you have examples (specific sources) you feel demonstrate an ignorance in this article due to a lack of research, please share links or references to them so that we can also expand our knowledge base. (If you haven’t, perhaps consider why you felt led to make such a comment.)

  • Noelle

    Yes, that’s true, but I don’t think that’s the argument she is making. Her near-to-last statement acknowledges abortion as an evil. I think she’s complaining about what almost seems like a willful misunderstanding of what leads women into decisions to abort in the first place. Calling for empathy, in other words. I do think rising panic (and even direct threats on safety in the case of family/s-o coercion) is more of a primal instinct than a moral rationale. So even if there is a moral rationale against abortion, that rationale will not actually help a woman in a position of such primal panic that she may not even be free to think clearly and objectively. She’s surviving at that point, and we all do things we ordinarily would never do in order to survive (or protect our loved ones so they can survive).

    The hard thing is that we can’t talk in generalities about what motivates any woman to seek an abortion — because each circumstance and inner motivation is an individual thing. Trying to generalize means speculating about what “might” be going on inside a given woman’s head and heart, which of course is minimally useful. What we need are the actual circumstances…and even then, without being in that predicament ourselves, we can never fully comprehend. And even if we’ve been in a similar circumstance, we can’t understand how someone else, with different shaping life experiences, different wiring and capacity for stress, different everything, would experience or be able to handle. (That’s why the “I had an unplanned pregnancy/found out my unborn child would be disabled, and chose life,” is not an appropriate or loving answer to the woman that chose to abort. It simply says “I could cope and you couldn’t.” So if she’s been traumatized by the circumstances surrounding and up to her abortion (even beyond it), and is (likely) struggling with shame and depression, this puts a boot on her head and smashes her face into the mud. It doesn’t truly help.)

    Anyway I think that’s what I’m getting from the author. Not a rationale to justify the morality of abortion. A plea to empathize with, and humbly defer our indignation to, the real and lived experience of individual women.

    The question of what to do about abortion and the circumstances related to it, as a society, needs to be addressed separately. But it definitely can’t be properly addressed as long as we don’t grasp this. As long as we oversimplify it to being about wanting “convenience” or to avoid consequences…we will be incapable of solving anything.

  • Yes and no. There are many women in both categories, and increasingly with the “Shout Your Abortion” campaign, more and more women are saying, “I had an abortion because I just didn’t want to have a baby and I reject feeling bad about that.” So what do you do with that?

  • San_Ban

    And that is their right. No person should have to justify their medical decisions to strangers. Nobody but the pregnant person has the right to decide which pregnancy(ies) she will bring to term.