Last spring, I flew to a then-secret location in the Midwest with other journalists to watch part of the “Unplanned” movie filming.
It seemed a no-brainer to accept the invitation. In 2011, after learning of former Planned Parenthood manager Abby Johnson’s startling exit from the abortion industry, I met her while she was in town speaking at a pastors’ conference.
Johnson’s book, “Unplanned,” on which the movie is based, had been published recently, and I’d inadvertently sat at her table during a public portion of the gathering at the Radisson in downtown Fargo.
The next day, she invited us to pray with her on the sidewalk adjoining the Red River Women’s Clinic. This powerful experience left an imprint on me. Inspired by Johnson and other post-abortive women, I eventually began praying on the sidewalk regularly on Wednesdays, the day abortions happen here.
In 2012, after writing about my encounter with Johnson, I was approached to help write the story of Ramona Trevino, another former abortion-industry manager. “Redeemed by Grace: A Catholic Woman’s Journey to Planned Parenthood and Back” was published in February 2015.
I’ve since met Johnson several more times and interviewed her on Real Presence Radio about her faith conversion.
Because Trevino’s decision to leave Planned Parenthood was partially influenced by reading “Unplanned,” we discussed this story often while unraveling the pieces of Trevino’s conversion. In many ways, flying to Oklahoma City to witness the filming of “Unplanned” became a natural extension of the work I’d already been doing.
My resulting articles in CatholicMom.com came from interviews with the directors, and with Johnson and Ashely Bratcher, the actress who plays her in the film. Bratcher powerfully shared with us how, right after accepting the role, she’d learned she was almost aborted herself.
Given how often I’ve confronted Johnson’s story, it shocked me to learn the movie had received an R rating. The punishment didn’t fit the so-called crime.
But the rating choice was confirmed during my recent private screening of the film. Watching “Unplanned” in my living room, weeping, I realized that while reading about abortion is hard, “touring” an abortion facility cinematographically during “business hours” is even harder, though convicting.
Despite Planned Parenthood’s claim that abortion is compassionate, its reality is devastating, and “Unplanned” movie’s inside, honest view reveals this truth. The directors didn’t contest the two-edged-sword rating, they said, in part because it helps make their point.
Like 2004’s “The Passion of Christ” movie, a “Restricted” rating does befit “Unplanned,” not because of the usual offenders, but the gut-wrenching nature of its central topic. So, as with “The Passion,” our family’s R-rated-movie ban will be suspended temporarily so our teens can be further educated on a subject affecting everyone.
“Unplanned” opened yesterday at West Acres Cinema in Fargo and will play here for a limited time. If we’re ever going to see the end of the human injustice of abortion, we must first confront it. Here’s our chance.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on March 30, 2019.]