Two weeks ago, the pro-life movie Unplanned opened in theaters across the country. Despite censorship and discrimination from social media and other outlets, it shocked Hollywood as it became the #4 movie at the box office opening weekend. It was projected to earn between $3–5 million that weekend, but it exceeded expectations, raking in $6.4 million and expanding to more theaters for a second weekend of viewing.
Based on the novel by the same name, it tells the true story of Abby Johnson. Johnson worked for Planned Parenthood for eight years and was the youngest person to be given its employee of the year award. After a series of events which are shown in the film, including witnessing an ultrasound-guided abortion, Abby abruptly left the abortion industry for good and has since been a passionate pro-life advocate, also helping others leave the abortion industry through her nonprofit organization, And Then There Were None.
The film was given an R rating by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for the violent depiction of several abortion procedures in the film. The writers and directors of the film, Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, remarked on the irony of the MPAA’s R rating, “The MPAA seems to be indirectly endorsing the pro-life position: namely that abortion is an act of violence.”
The film has multiple scenes showing surgical abortions being performed, as well as the gruesome effects of chemical abortions. I am not someone who is really bothered by blood or violence in movies, but admittedly, these scenes affected me. I felt physically sick watching them. I talked with a friend who witnessed a young girl pass out during the scenes and a teenage boy leave the theater to get sick.
After the movie ended, I began to wonder just how accurate these depictions of abortions were. Having met the real-life characters in the film, Abby Johnson and Shawn Carney, I know them to be trustworthy people and seriously doubted they would allow anything which was not accurately portrayed. Abortion supporters will likely attempt to discredit the film and deny the accuracy of the abortion procedures, so I wanted to confirm what medical professionals had to say about its accuracy after watching the film.
I talked with a doctor who led an early private screening of the film in Indianapolis, where over 200 undergrad, graduate, medical students, and medical professionals attended. After seeing the film, several doctors wrote reviews of the film. Since the film involves medical aspects and depictions of surgical and chemical abortions, I believe it is important to know what actual doctors had to say about it. Due to the pro-abortion bias in the medical community (e.g., some doctors being asked to resign due to their pro-life views) the full names of the medical professionals below are not given, for their safety.
This movie was an important work. As an Obstetrician/Gynecologist, I have taken care of many women who have had terminations, and so viewed the film critically for content and message.
The makers of the film were accurate and did not overplay their hand emotionally or graphically. I appreciated and have witnessed the cumulative emotional toll that either hardens women (e.g., Cheryl) or breaks them (Abby), and I really felt that emphasis throughout the film was appropriate and spot on. I also viewed the film from the standpoint of ‘what are the key points that needed to be conveyed to the viewer?’ and I felt they hit just about every one of those points — key among them being the financial motivation of Planned Parenthood and the fact the abortionists do not provide any follow up care for even their immediate complications.
While I have never participated in an abortion or proactively counseled a patient to seek an abortion, I have had patients who have terminated a baby for medical or because of fetal anomalies tell me that the counselors at these clinics don’t care about the circumstances that brought them to their clinic, they only care that they wanted the procedure done. The procedure, even when well intended for medical reasons, really only complicates their grief, which is why it is never the right answer.
Abby was likely far kinder and even-handed than what I have heard others say about abortion counselors. The sidewalk counselors/40 Days for Life [featured in the film] I also thought was fairly handled. The statistics quoted about women changing their mind or not walking through Planned Parenthood’s door is likely very true.
I loved the emphasis on forgiveness and helping women heal after abortion — Finally, I was really impressed with the number of male students present at the movie. It is such an important message that these young men understand the emotional price these women pay for doing the most unnatural thing in the world — having their baby literally torn from their body. Any woman who has an abortion is truly never the same. Thank you for those who so generously sponsored the film.
— Nancy W., M.D.
Unplanned was an eye opening look into the inner workings of Planned Parenthood from the ground level to corporate. The importance placed on the number of abortions and exceeding abortion quotas was revealing.
There was a level of desensitization in the workers. Abby would go to great lengths to convince a person to choose abortion like a used car salesman, refer to the freezer of fetal remains as the nursery and the POC room as the pieces of children area. It seems that she truly believed that although they were babies, it was ok to end their lives because they were “unwanted” and she believed they couldn’t feel anything.
When she saw the 12 week fetus fight for its life and lose, she was shaken to the core.
It was also a look at what peaceful, loving, prayerful protest looks like versus those who are yelling at and condemning women for walking through the doors. When Abby left, she ran into their arms because they had always shown her love.
It opens our eyes to the humanity of those inside and outside. Those volunteering for the sidewalk escort positions are doing so because they want to support women, but so are the people on the outside of the fence.
Abby honestly seemed to think her job would make abortion safe and rare. The upper administration of Planned Parenthood seems to be very different from the hourly waged employees and volunteers, they seem to be instruments that are being used as well.
The brutality of abortion is evident through this film. Not just the brutality of a D&E procedure for a 2nd trimester baby, but the brutality of 1st trimester abortion. This is a gray area that many people feel more comfortable with…not any more…once you have seen this…you can’t unsee it. The truth is evident and abortion is brutal at every stage.
— M.R., OBGYN Physician
As the Surgical Director of Quality and Patient Safety at a tertiary children’s care center, and a tenured Professor in my surgical department, I watched Unplanned from the lens of holding these professional roles. My own personal beliefs regarding abortion and the woman’s right to choose are less important than the film’s perspective on my quality and safety role. I was struck by the violence of the procedure against the fetus and the mother. If accurate, the scene where the young teenage patient who underwent an abortion and then suffered post-procedure uterine rupture stood out. It seems to indicate the lack of oversight and transparency of outcomes for abortion clinics, such as Planned Parenthood. E.g., there is no blood bank on-site. Furthermore, the suggestion that the clinic director and physician refused to call 9-1-1 for an ambulance is unethical and immoral.
Medicine is quickly turning into the business of medicine. It is up to physicians to take a stand to ensure that the health and safety of their patients do not take a backseat to the fiscal health of a corporation and profit margin.
Physicians and health care providers must be responsible and accountable for their actions and outcomes, and they must be advocates for their patients. It does not seem that the providers of Planned Parenthood have this sort of moral compass. Rather, the physicians seem like soldiers of fortune or mercenaries, flying in-and-out of locations to perform abortion procedures on a weekend, without any care for the patients’ outcomes or even wanting to know what their patients’ outcomes are. I do not know if they would be allowed to behave in this unprofessional way at their own home institutions. They would certainly not be allowed at my institution.
The disappointment in my own profession is probably the biggest message that I took away from this film.
— A.J., M.D.
The movie ‘Unplanned’ establishes the connection between emotion and the act of abortion. Persons who take a pro-choice stance without knowing what an abortion entails are given a window to witness it, with the procedure being depicted in an artful manner. It is an education on reality, and puts a visual and emotional tag on the usual “faceless” word, abortion.
It also raises important questions regarding patient safety: the serious health risks that a woman is exposed to during the procedure, the reliability and soundness of the protocol in place should a life-threatening event occur during an abortion, and availability of emotional and medical support post abortion. These are serious issues that need investigating.
It also questions the motives of Planned Parenthood as an organization. Are they here to answer reproductive health needs, or are they here to serve a business model at the expense of vulnerable women and defenseless unborn children?
Although I think the movie could have delved deeper into women’s issues that drive them to commit abortion, I do think that overall the movie achieved its goals, the main one being increased awareness of the actual procedure, which provided a powerful visual that could potentially change hearts.
I recommend this film to anyone, wherever they stand on this issue. Watch the film and see where it takes you. At the end of day, it doesn’t matter what you think you know, but how you feel.
— J.P., M.D., Internal Medicine
I’m a pediatrician and saw the film today. It is so well done, not overly graphic, but shows the reality of abortion. It has a strong message of the power of love and of sustained prayer over time. Everyone should see it, and take your teens with you.
— S.K., M.D., Pediatrics
It was very well done. I didn’t feel it tried to shove religion and judgment down people’s throats. Or even a “pro-life agenda”. It just showed reality. It showed this woman’s story. And it’s so powerful to see the truth.
— J.M., M.D., Psychiatry
As a physician, I believe Unplanned is a very important movie to watch. Many in my area are not even aware of the movie, just as many are not aware of what abortion really is — what it does to babies physically and to their mothers emotionally.
I have often heard from physicians’ mouths the same script Abby preached in the movie — that abortion should be kept safe and that the objective of abortion clinics would be to make abortion rare. However, the more I practiced medicine, the more I began to encounter physicians whose defense of abortion included any point in gestation for any reason. I remember physicians feeling uncomfortable by the case of a couple who wanted to have an abortion when the genetic testing revealed that the planned baby was going to be a girl. Many defended the choice because not doing so meant they had to compromise their position. Then I learned the statistics in my own state (where reason for abortion must be documented in all cases) and found that about 90% of abortions performed in this state were “elective”. Daunting. Abortion does not empower women. Truth empowers women.
This movie also did a great job of presenting those who hold differing positions, yet have respectful relationships with one another. This beautifully captured the reality that most people’s views on abortion are well-intentioned, though often misguided.
Finally, I found the greatest aspect of the movie to be the compassion and forgiveness it offered to women who have been touched by abortion. There was never any judgment- only sincere compassion.
— N.G., Internal Medicine
It was sobering, honest, and powerful to witness. No matter where each one stands on this issue, it is important to take a moment and give this film a chance and see it for ourselves. It behooves us to see the reality of our times and to see what we are defending or opposing.
— L.E.J., Internal Medicine
In addition to these reviews from medical professionals, descriptions of the abortion procedures from abortionists themselves also back up the depictions of abortion in the film. Such confirmations come from Dr. Anthony Levatino, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Dr. Warren Hern, and Dr. Willie Parker.
It is clear this film and its accurate portrayal of abortion and Planned Parenthood is changing minds and hearts on the abortion debate. Students For Life of America has already seen reports of over 300 students who supported abortion change their minds after seeing the film.
One thing is for certain: to quote William Wilberforce, once you see this film, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”
Published with permission from Human Defense.