The movie Unplanned will open in theaters across the country this weekend. This film is the true story of Abby Johnson, the youngest Planned Parenthood clinic director in the nation, turned pro life advocate. It is based on Abby’s book (same title) published in 2010 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. The book and movie share Abby’s story from both sides of the fence, literally.
The vulnerability expressed by Johnson throughout the book is epic. The author begins her book by stating, ‘My story is not a comfortable one to read.’ That statement is accurate – it is NOT comfortable to read. On the other hand, throughout the book, she IS painfully honest and direct about her experiences, feelings, and transformation.
Johnson recalls how as a young, naive college student wishing to make her mark on the world, she began as a volunteer escort with the Planned Parenthood clinic located in Bryan/College Station, Texas, near the campus of Texas A & M. In her volunteer work, Johnson was tasked with ‘protecting’ abortion clients entering the clinic from the ‘protestors’ on the opposite side of the fence. Clinic staff believed potential clients needed security and protection as they walked from their cars to the doors of the Planned Parenthood clinic.
Now, as an advocate for life, Johnson finds herself at the same fence, however, now she is on the other side of the fence, aligned with those so-called ‘protestors.’ A number of the group walking outside the Bryan/College Station Planned Parenthood were individuals representing The Coalition for Life. This organization birthed the 40 Days for Life campaign in 2007. Since that date, volunteers have successfully completed over 6,000 campaigns in 816 cities representing 56 nations. Currently, approximately 375 active campaigns in 30 countries are taking place now, spring 2019.
According to their site, the 40 Days folks are praying for an end to abortion. The methods used to accomplish their mission include prayer and fasting, community outreach, and peaceful vigils. In her book, Johnson reflects on the conflicting notion of needing protection from prayer and the other peaceful strategies employed by this group. Albeit, she openly recalls being highly annoyed with the fence group and admittedly was involved with calls to law enforcement on numerous occasions.
Unplanned carries with it an R rating from the Motion Picture Association. This rating does not reflect sexual content, language, drug abuse or consistent violence. The rating is in response to the portrayal of an abortion procedure, a major factor in Johnson’s dramatic swing from her prochoice viewpoint to holding a pro life position. The particular experience was her personal involvement in an ultrasound-guided abortion procedure of a 13-week old fetus. It is estimated that worldwide 125,000 abortions happen every day, indicating an R rating is perhaps more a part of everyday reality than any of us care to ponder.
It will be interesting to watch the public response to Johnson’s life story, whose journey includes 2 of her own abortions. Her experience is common but rarely spoken in public venues. Hard truths, when brought to light and exposed, are difficult to see. Hopefully, Johnson’s hard life truths can be met with understanding.
In 1993, audiences seemed able to identify with the movie, Alive. This film was a similar true to life story involving cannibalism. Following the crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, 28 survivors were stranded in the mountains as they were crossing the Andes, headed for Santiago, Chile. Of the 28 initial crash survivors, 16 survivors were later rescued more than 2 months after the initial crash. Like Unplanned, this film graphically portrays true life events, including decisions made that challenge our individual humanity and dignity.
When we search our hearts and pasts, the highs, lows, the decisions we wish we would have made, or perhaps the regrets from decisions we did make, it takes both strength and resiliency to uncover all of that and to place a life in full view for everyone to see. It is admirable that Johnson would make herself and her family vulnerable before her supporters and her critics.
With the opening of the movie and the press to follow, Johnson, in a recent webinar, stated her preparation and expectation of harsh criticism for the film and its message after its release. Perhaps criticism of Johnson can be more filled with kindness in an attempt to truly be open to understanding Johnson’s life journey. Maybe in doing so, we may walk with others trying to truly understand their stories as well.
For more information about Abby and her story, visit her website: http://www.abbyjohnson.org/thanks-for-stopping-by/ or check out her ministry site ‘and THEN There Were NONE,’ a non-profit focused on helping abortion clinic workers leave the abortion industry.