is a new hit movie about former Planned Parenthood director Abby
Johnson’s journey to the pro-life cause. Gritty and heart-wrenching this
film has defied expectations to land in the top 4 at the box office,
even though it is showing at a fraction of the theaters of bigger budget
Recently, I sat down with Doug Johnson, husband to Abby Johnson, as
he gave us an inside look at the story behind the film, Johnson family
life, the powerful prayers behind the film’s production, and more. We
were interrupted several times by Doug and Abby’s adorable children—the
Johnsons’ are truly living a culture of life!
My anti-abortion views solidified in 1976 when I bought a copy of Esquire magazine.
There was something in it by or about George Plimpton that I wanted to
read, but thumbing through the pages I came to an article titled “What I
Saw at the Abortion” by Richard Selzer, M.D.
I’d been a Catholic for about three years and knew what I was supposed to believe about abortion. I’d recently read Humane vitae for
the first time and been deeply impressed by its clarity: “all direct
abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, [is] to be absolutely excluded.”
But it was when I read Dr. Selzer’s article that my view was forever
What knocked me for a loop was Selzer’s reference to a “flick,” a resistance, the fetus defending itself against its murder. Read it for yourself (The Human Life Review has reprinted it here), but here’s the good doctor’s conclusion:
I am not trying to argue. I am only saying I’ve seen. The
flick. Whatever else may be said in abortion’s defense, the vision of
that other defense will not vanish from my eyes. What I saw I saw as
that: a defense, a motion from, an effort away. And it has happened that you cannot reason with me now. For what can language do against the truth of what I saw?
So, it seemed to me before I watched the new movie, Unplanned,
that the defining scene would have to be just such a moment, one in
which Abby Johnson (played by Ashley Bratcher) witnessed the abortion
that changed her life. (The film is based on her book of the same title.)
That moment is set up nicely in an earlier scene in which Abby, the
youngest clinic director at Planned Parenthood, banally counsels a young
woman not to worry: “The one thing that all experts agree on is that,
at this stage, the fetus can’t feel anything.”
But then she witnesses a “procedure” during which she sees (via
ultrasound) the child “twisting and fighting for its life” against the
abortionist’s cannula, which causes her to look anew at her
participation in the 22,000 abortions that happened during her tenure.
This begs the question of how one could ever not have known what the
hell was going on, but that’s life, I guess. We must suppress what we
believe we must not accept.
As the Psalmist says (34: 14-15), “Keep your
tongue from evil, your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do
good; seek peace and pursue it.” And that’s what Abby Johnson did, a
change of heart and mind, however, made more difficult for her because
she’d had two abortions herself.
The scenes in which Ashley Bratcher acts through Abby Johnson’s
descent into abject misery and ascent into pro-life glory are very fine