Movie review: The day Abby Johnson's heart broke

(By Ellen Short) Have you seen Unplanned yet? I just went, and it rocked me. I thought I knew what to expect from this movie. And I thought I’d come out of it with tons of ideas for a punchy review.  Wrong: I came out gasping.

This is not your typical, low-budget, happy fluffy Christian film. It’s extremely well made on every front, and it’s heavy—nothing fluffy about it. Frankly, I’m finding it very hard to write anything at all about a movie that I basically cried through.  

Unplanned is the true story of Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood clinic director and employee of the year. She was once a relentless defender of her work because she believed it was the best way to help women in crisis.  

I’m fiercely pro-life. Protecting the unborn has always mattered to me. Watching this film wasn’t the first time I’d shed tears for the millions of tiny humans that have been brutally murdered in America. But I’ve never felt this personally close to that holocaust.  

I grew up in a community where basically everyone was pro-life. Unplannedbrought things to the screen in a personal way that I’ve intellectually thought about -- but which I’d never really understood at a heart level.

Into the Back Room

The film fearlessly addresses how Planned Parenthood, under the guise of a “women’s health clinic” and claiming to minimize abortions, actually uses abortion as its primary source of revenue. In the movie, not only are the young mothers kept in the dark about PP’s practices—in many cases the volunteers are, too. 

The turning point of the film (don’t worry, not a spoiler—we see it in the first five minutes of the movie and then go back in time to witness Abby Johnson’s story leading up to that point) is when Abby, as clinic director, is called into the back room to help with a “procedure.” 

Despite years of working at Planned Parenthood, Abby had never actually been in the room while an abortion was performed. Now she’s guiding the ultrasound probe, and for the first time, watching as the fetus is sucked from the womb with a catheter and dumped in pieces into a vial.  

The tiny one struggles for its life, squirming to get away from the catheter, and it’s this sight that breaks Abby’s heart and impels her to resign from Planned Parenthood. 

Unplanned is full of heart-wrenching depictions of young women in crisis, in a variety of situations; for all of them, abortion was the only solution they knew. We see how Planned Parenthood, far from making abortion the last resort, backs them into a corner, makes them feel even more hopeless and alone than they already are, and finally sells them.

Message of Hope

There are graphic scenes in the movie, but nothing gratuitous or uncalled-for. Despite its “R” rating, in my opinion a “PG-13” rating would be more appropriate; younger teens should definitely understand both the horrors of abortion and the hope that there are other ways. Anyone on either side of the issue should see it, as well as those who haven’t decided.

Unplanned is based on Abby Johnson’s book by the same title; I’m buying it so I can go deeper into the issue. There might be things I could critique—for example, some might take issue with starting the film with the climax. 

And maybe the message could have been portrayed more subtly—but honestly, I don’t think so. Abby, played by Ashley Bratcher, comes right out and says it at the beginning of the film: “This might be tough to swallow, but it’s my story.”

I think her story is told powerfully yet tastefully, boldly yet with grace and gentleness. As a character, Abby is personal, relatable, and genuine, and her character development is compelling.

The movie in no way condemns women in unintended pregnancies or who have had abortions. More than ever, my heart goes out to women in crisis pregnancies and to the tiny, beautiful lives that are ended every day. 

 Unplanned brings the truth to light while sending a message of hope, love, and redemption. Everyone, regardless of your stance on the issue, should go see it, and do so with an open mind and heart.

Ellen Short (nee Densmore) is an Army wife living near Fort Drum, New York, where her new husband, Justin, is a soldier on active duty. Homeschooled through grade 12, she graduated last May after a distinguished career at Colorado Christian University, including top prize in the Centennial Institute’s national speakers contest. Contact:

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