The Unplanned movie came out a little over a month ago, and reportedly, 15 abortion workers have left the industry after seeing the film, and thousands more people have been indelibly impacted.
I am still processing the takeaways from the story of ex-abortion worker Abby Johnson’s departure from the industry and how this dramatic event, portrayed cinematographically, has affected me. There’s one image, seen early in the film, that haunted me throughout my viewing and has continued to haunt me ever since.
It’s a simple visual, not at all red and bloody, shown in basic black and white: the live ultrasound revealing a shockingly emptied-out womb—or what I call a “black hole” because of how it left me feeling: engulfed by emptiness at confronting a severe, senseless void. Something alive and vibrant—and obviously human—had vanished in a sickening flash.
Certainly, other moments in the film gripped me as well, like a scene in which a mother begs her daughter not to go through with her scheduled abortion while grasping the fence that separates them, desperate and powerless, crying out for her to stop.
But nothing moved me as deeply as that eerily vacant haven. For in the context of the vibrant life seen just moments before, its hollowed reality opened something unexpected inside me. Seeing the empty sanctuary where God’s icon—an unrepeatable child made in his very image and likeness—had been just seconds before stopped me cold.
My friend Ramona Trevino, another former Planned Parenthood manager, told me recently that abortion won’t end until we’ve regained a sense of the sacred, and I think she’s right. Though even the irreligious can feel horror at innocent life ending—for there is never a just defense of such a death—ultimately, we cannot separate the exquisiteness of life from its creator. Without returning to this reality of the holiness of God, the lights of our world will remain perpetually dimmed.
While I struggle to adequately describe the effect of this lifeless cavity juxtaposed next to the vibrancy of life in Unplanned—a scene that has been repeated millions of times in reality in our country alone since Roe vs. Wade—I can say that the visual changed me.
I watched the film on a Tuesday, and by Wednesday, had ventured out to pray on the sidewalk of our state’s only abortion facility. As I caught sight of the grimacing face of a longtime escort, my heart softened, for I know, based on her own admission, that she lives with the reality of her own emptied womb, her own black hole.
In her recently-released book, The Anti-Mary Exposed, author Carrie Gress says that as women, we are “made for motherhood, so our stewardship of life and the quality of our character can be judged on how we engage in it.”
“Despite our contemporary misreading of human nature, there is simply no way for a woman to take herself out of motherhood,” she writes, adding that everything a woman is or does is, in essence, “somehow related to her embrace or rejection of (motherhood).”
This is a stunning statement, one that makes me see the post-abortive woman in a new light. For each has explicitly rejected her motherhood. Even if she refuses to admit that, she still lives it with every breath she takes. A troubling prospect indeed.
Having confronted the black hole in Unplanned so vividly, I now better understand the void that the unhealed post-abortive woman lives with each day. It has compelled me to pray for her even more and with more fervency, desire her healing and freedom. Without this freedom, she carries death every day within her, without solace.
“The abortion movement… is counting on men and woman who have been complicit in abortion to defend it,” Gress continues. “Intellectually and morally trapped, followers are stuck defending their own actions, wittingly or not, because they have been engaged in the destructive behavior that fuels their movement.”
May God, in his mercy, help us bring a revival of this sense of lost motherhood—and fatherhood as well—to our collective consciousness. If anyone can be a fitting guide, it is Our Blessed Mother. She alone can help us most fully accomplish the task of, as Gress puts it, “…giving women their hearts back.”
In this month in which we regard motherhood, we might try, beginning with “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.” As we do, may we hold the Lord close each day, as tenderly as Mary did in her holy womb.
[Note: I write about my experiences on the sidewalk Downtown Fargo on Wednesday, the day abortions happen at our state’s only abortion facility, for New Earth magazine — the official news publication of the Fargo Diocese. I hope you find “Sidewalk Stories” helpful in understanding the truth about abortion and how it plays out tragically each week here in Fargo, N.D. The preceding ran in New Earth’s May 2019 issue.]