Many pro-lifers were shocked and confused when the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) gave an “R” rating to the upcoming film about pro-life leader Abby Johnson’s conversion story. Now, Johnson is speaking directly to concerned parents to clarify exactly what they can expect in the movie (read full letter below).
Unplanned is being made by the creators of Christian hits such as God’s Not Dead and I Can Only Imagine, in partnership with 40 Days for Life and Abby Johnson’s And Then There Were None. It tells the real-life story of Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood abortion facility director who converted to the pro-life cause in 2009. Johnson has exposed numerous details about the inner workings of the abortion industry and now works as a pro-life activist and commentator.
The MPAA informed the filmmakers last month that they would give the movie an “R” for “some disturbing/bloody images,” unless it removed its scenes depicting abortion. The creators refused to change the movie and sent a letter of complaint to MPAA CEO Charles Rivkin. Others have noted that the MPAA regularly gives PG-13 ratings to movies with vividly violent and sexual content.
This week, Johnson released an open letter addressed to parents making clear the film contained no profanity, nudity, or sex, assuring them that the film’s tone runs the full range between laughter and tears, and detailing the specific scenes so they can decide for themselves whether to let their children see them.
One scene shows “what I saw on the ultrasound screen when I assisted in the abortion procedure that convinced me of the humanity of the unborn. You will see what I saw: a baby on an ultrasound screen in black and white 2D. You will see the abortion instrument, which looks like a big straw in real life and like a dark line on the ultrasound, introduced onto the screen. You will see the baby struggle against it. You will see the baby first slowly, then quickly disappear into the instrument as it does what it is designed to do.”
Johnson stresses the footage is not of an actual abortion, and necessary to keep in the film “because it tells the truth about what our culture keeps trying to insist is a ‘right’ and a ‘freedom.’”
The second scene “re-creates my awful experience with the abortion pill,” including some blood. “In real life, I hemorrhaged so badly I thought I was going to die,” Johnson writes, adding that the film captures her experience “without being gratuitous or gory.”
Johnson concludes that she cannot make the decision for parents themselves, but shares that her own 12-year-old daughter will see it and other friends who have seen it plan to do the same.
“Our children are of the generation who is being lost to abortion. This is personal for them too,” she writes. “Yes, it’s a movie about abortion, but even more so, it’s a movie about the truth of forgiveness, repentance, and redemption, because that is what the story of my life, is really about.”
Unplanned stars Ashley Bratcher as Johnson and features an appearance by reformed ex-abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino as the abortionist who commits the “procedure that changes Abby’s life.” It follows the pro-life film Gosnell and serves as another counterweight to a variety of upcoming pro-abortion movies. It arrives in theaters March 29; more information can be found at the film’s official website.
Abby Johnson’s full letter to parents
I wanted to take a few minutes before my movie, Unplanned, comes out in theaters to talk to you. Mom-to-mom. Parent-to-parent. As you know, the movie received an R rating from the MPAA, and I imagine that may make you nervous about allowing your children to see it. Setting aside that, it feels a little weird to have a movie made about my life, and even weirder to be told that my life is “rated R.” I want to tell you, as a mother, what you can expect from the film: The movie does not have profanity. The Lord’s Name is not taken in vain or disrespected. There is no nudity, no immodesty, and certainly no sex or “suggestive” moments. None.
So why the R rating? For two scenes. Two scenes that the movie team was determined to re-create accurately, at my insistence, because they are important for people to see. The first is a CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) recreation of what I saw on the ultrasound screen when I assisted in the abortion procedure that convinced me of the humanity of the unborn. You will see what I saw: a baby on an ultrasound screen in black and white 2D. You will see the abortion instrument, which looks like a big straw in real life and like a dark line on the ultrasound, introduced onto the screen. You will see the baby struggle against it. You will see the baby first slowly, then quickly disappear into the instrument as it does what it is designed to do. It is important for you to know that this was a CGI recreation and NOT footage from a real abortion. But it sure looks like what I saw. I think this scene is so important for teenagers and older children to see because it tells the truth about what our culture keeps trying to insist is a “right” and a “freedom.” No one will be able to see this scene and then say they “don’t know” the truth about abortion.
The second scene that was cited as a reason for the R rating is a scene that re-creates my awful experience with the abortion pill. Ashley, the actress who plays me, did a fantastic job capturing both my physical pain and my fear. I won’t lie to you; that scene shows some blood. In real life I hemorrhaged so badly I thought I was going to die. The movie captures that without being gratuitous or gory. I think the producers walked that line well.
The rest of the film is not as intense as those two scenes. It will make you laugh, make you cringe, gasp, cry, and cheer- all the things a good movie should. The difference with Unplanned is that it has the potential to change and save lives in the process.
So, should you take your kids to see this movie? I can’t decide for you, but I will tell you that my twelve-year-old daughter will see it. I can tell you my friends who have pre-screened the film plan on bringing their 10, 11, and 12-year olds along with their teenagers to see it, and I hope you will do the same. Our children are of the generation who is being lost to abortion. This is personal for them, too. They are likely to hear and see more graphic content in most school health classes! I guess what I’m trying to say is, this movie is authentic. Yes, it’s a movie about abortion, but even more so, it’s a movie about the truth of forgiveness, repentance, and redemption, because that is what the story of my life is really about.
See you at the movies.