62 minutes; 2011
Rating: 7 out of 10 stars
Abby Johnson was raised pro-life but became the head of one of the United States’ biggest Planned Parenthood abortion clinics. In 2009 she left her job and walked down the street into the offices of Coalition for Life, a pro-life group that regularly picketed outside her clinic. She wanted their help; she wanted out; she wanted forgiveness.
This is an eye-opening documentary in two entirely different ways.
First, unPLANNED shows us how a young woman can be pulled into the abortion movement. When Abby Johnson went off to college she got involved with a man several years older than her. When she became pregnant and didn’t know what to do, this boyfriend had a ready “solution.” Soon after, when she came across a Planned Parenthood display on campus, she still told them she was pro-life, but it didn’t take much for them to sway her. She wanted them to be right; she didn’t want to think of herself as a killer. Soon she was volunteering at the abortion clinic, along with many others sincerely thought they were helping women.
But outside the clinic fence there were pro-life Christians praying. They were praying for the unborn babies, praying for their mothers, and praying for Abby too.
The second eye-opening aspect of this documentary is the way it shows us how the pro-life movement, by God’s grace, won this woman over. Gracious volunteers who spoke the truth and were clearly motivated by love spent years talking with Abby, through the fence. One even brought her flowers! Then, in late 2009, she, for the first time, helped with an ultrasound-guided abortion of a 13-week-old unborn baby. Though she had been told that fetuses at this stage could not feel pain, she saw the fetus jerking and squirming to get away from the vacuum tube. Watching the child get ripped apart on the ultrasound screen brought her to a moment of horrifying clarity.
I was just watching, in shock, and just horror, almost, because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing…. I couldn’t believe it. I could believe that - I couldn’t believe that I had believed a lie for that long. That I had lived a lie for that long. That I had spoken so many lies, to so many women, for so long.
She didn’t know quite what to do, but only a few days later she was at the doors of Coalition for Life asking for their help.
Her story hit the national airwaves when the Planned Parenthood clinic, in what seems an attempt at intimidating her, sued her. Their case was thrown out of court, but it helped publicize Abby’s departure, and the story of a former abortion clinic director becoming pro-life was too good for any news organization to ignore. We don’t always understand the means by which God further his plans, but in this instance what Planned Parenthood intended for evil, God very quickly and very clearly turned to good: the news coverage allowed Abby Johnson to speak up for the unborn to a national audience.
While I would recommend this film to anyone over 12, I do want to add a couple cautions.
First, this is a fantastic pro-life resource, but shouldn’t be used as a theological one – many of the interviewees talk about God from a distinctly Arminian perspective, which isn’t surprising since many are undoubtedly Catholic (including Abby Johnson).
Second, as my father-in-law noted about the book this film is based on, it lacks an appropriate sense of gravitas. Though she acknowledges she sinned horribly, the true horror of what Abby Johnson was involved in isn’t really conveyed in the film. The reaction of her pro-life family, and pro-life husband to her abortion clinic work contributes to this lack of gravitas – they make it clear they disapprove, but their daughter’s/wife’s ongoing involvement in the murder of countless children doesn’t prompt them to anything more than muted expressions of disapproval. It hardly seems like she could be doing anything too wrong if this all the reaction she gets from her friends and family.
I’ll conclude by noting I’m being a bit overly cautious with these cautions and I hope this doesn’t leave you wondering if the film is any good. It is wonderful! What a story – praise God for the wonders He can perform! It is also a great resource for anyone involved in the pro-life movement, and to those who are not, but are starting to recognize that they really should be! I highly recommend it (and have already seen it 5 times!).