Does America "Really Want Abortions": The Lies and Deception of "Unplanned"

The last two governmental years have not been the most pro-woman, and while correlation doesn't equal causation, coincidences sure are rearing their heads. Between President Trump appointing openly anti-choice advocates to speak to the Department of Health, as well as trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it seems as though women’s reproductive rights are treading water, if not completely drowning in the dark waters of bureaucratic injustice.

However, before delving into the true matter at hand, I wanted to lay out a brief timeline of events that have occurred over the last two years just to illustrate some of the ideas I highlighted above. Let’s start in spring of 2017: 

  • May 16th, 2017: President Trump reinforces the Global Gag Rule, preventing millions of women from access to safe abortions, as well as other women’s health issues. 
  • October 31st, 2018: President Trump attempts to restrict rights to birth control through employer-provided health insurance.
  • February 26th, 2019: Georgia proposes the “Heartbeat Bill”outlawing any abortion after a heartbeat is audible in an ultrasound, which occurs roughly at 6 weeks. 
  • March 29th, 2019: Unplanned came to theaters, which is where our attention is grasped.

If you’re not familiar with this story, it follows a young woman by the name of Abby Johnson. She was on track to be the youngest clinic director of the Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas. That was, until one fateful day when she was asked to assist in an ultrasound-guided, 13-week abortion. After what she describes as a “horrific” experience, Abby resigned from PP effective immediately and began her work with 40 Days for Life. You can read all about Abby and her story on her website

While Abby sells her story as emotional, life changing, and gut wrenching, it’s bold face fallacy. Not only is her story based in untrue and unfounded evidence, the empire that she has built for herself is comprised of lies, humiliation, and hate. Which, according to her, is why she left PP in the first place. But, before we deep dive into all of that, let’s explore her autobiographical film, shall we?

Unplanned spills across the theater screen, and immediately forces white heteronormativity down the viewers throats. Not only are Abby, her husband, and her daughter portrayed as the “perfect family”, but there is a montage of white, straight couples that flash through the next 45 seconds of the film. The first 10 minutes of Unplanned consist of a drawn out and painful depiction of an ultrasound-guided abortion that is so gruesome and gory it’s about the equivalent to season four of The Walking Dead. By the way, there were no trigger warnings of blood and gore before the film began. 

Planned Parenthood isn’t given a chance to rectify their image, as they are immediately demonized by Abby’s director cuts and scene blocking. Doctors yelling and shoving nurses out of the way, nurses holding screaming patients down and telling them through gritted teeth to “sit still and don’t move”, and all medical staff present prohibiting the patient from seeing the ultrasounds (which is illegal, by the way). 

After this terrifyingly bloody scene comes to an end, we flashback about 8 years in time, when a young “gullible” Abby meets someone from PP at her college’s career fair. Fast forward to her first day of work as she pulls into the parking lot, terrified of the protestors screaming “BABY MURDERER” at her from behind the gates. This image was one of my favorites portrayed in the movie, because Abby goes from vehemently opposing these protestors (she later approaches them and tells them her piece) to becoming one. 

Then we meet, Cheryl, the boney, pale-skinned, brunette HBIC, who sparks a terrifying resemblance to the Other Mother from Coraline. It’s like Abby took a page out of a 5th grade English textbook when casting Cheryl: she meets the symbolic description of anything evil. Cold hearted and business minded, she doesn’t care about the wellbeing of anyone or anything. 

We then delve into Abby’s own experience with having multiple abortions and her encounters with PP. I will spare you the gory details of what Abby described happened to her when she took the “abortion pill”, or the RU486 pill, as they are once again, a dramatization of the true symptoms and after effects. The symptoms that Abby highlights in the film, hours of agony, vomiting, losing consciousness, etc., are all symptoms that warrant a call to your doctor or a trip to the emergency room, not just a quick lay down on your bathroom floor. Abby waited until days after taking the pill to call PP, and once again, the organization is demonized by hanging up on her as she explains her situation, something that is against PP protocol. 

At this point in the film, I was generally fed up with the misconceptions and lack of accurate portrayal of quite literally anything in the movie so far. They didn’t even show Abby’s pregnancy and birth in an accurate manner. Isn’t that supposed to be the ONE thing they do correctly? Anyways, while writing this article I fact checked Abby probably more than she did writing the entire movie. If what I’ve said so far hasn’t angered you to your core, allow me to try one last time. 

Jumping ahead about an hour into the movie (Unplanned is roughly two hours long, just a heads up), Abby attends a conference for the employees of PP, where she is named employee of the year. This is also where we once again meet Cheryl, our lovely Other Mother lookalike, who informs all the clinic directors that PP will be opening up a new center that will be able to perform abortions up to 24 weeks. This sends Abby into a tizzy, and she says something to Cheryl. 

After the presentation, Abby is cornered by Cheryl, who then drops my favorite quote of the entire movie. Cheryl informs Abby that PP is similar to a fast food restaurant, where they break even with hamburgers (women’s health services) but make their money on sodas and fries; “abortion is our fries and soda, abortion is what pays for you and your family”.

(Gif Courtesy of GIPHY)

Now, let’s just quickly dissect that statement. Planned Parenthood publishes a comprehensive breakdown of all of its services every year on their website. The most recent breakdowns can be found on pages 23-25 of Planned Parenthood’s 2017-2018 report. According to this report, only 3.4% of PP’s services are abortions. 

Delving into the numbers further, this 3.4% equates to roughly 333,000 abortions total, amongst all of PP’s locations, in one year. Divide that number by 650, the number of PP’s there are that offer in-clinic abortions, and you get roughly 513 abortions per year, per clinic. 

Now, Abby claims that in her 8 years at PP, she witnessed 22,000 abortions in her own clinic, which breaks down to 2,750 a year. Aside from this being grossly inaccurate, it would mean that her clinic was taking in patients at a rate nearly 6x more than any other clinic. Seeing that Texas is a predominantly red state with strict abortion laws, her claim is immediately devalued. Furthermore, Cheryl mentioned that this new facility’s purpose was to offer abortions up to 24 weeks, which, across the nation both in and out of PP, has a rate of less than 1.3%.

After these seemingly torturous 8 years, Abby resigns and aligns herself with 40 Days for Life, a vocally pro-life organization dead set on ending abortion once and for all. Ironically enough, I like the moral basis that 40DFL prides themselves on: helping people and showing true, genuine compassion for those in pain. 

What I don’t like is just about everything else. There was a brief scene in the movie where a chemical waste disposer walks out of the back door of PP with Abby tries to sell as buckets of “pieces of children”. The protestors, or as they refer to themselves, prayer guardians, ask if they can pray over the barrels to ask G-d for forgiveness and to excuse the actions of the “wicked”, once again demonizing PP and all the women that have sought out an abortion. Abby works closely with 40DFL an even brags about how the no show rate for the clinic increased as a result of the constant prayers outside the clinic. 

I sat in the theater wondering how she could be so blind and one sided in her statement. Did she not think about her initial job as a volunteer chaperone, where she had to inform the patients coming in that there was nothing to be ashamed of and that they would be safe once they got there? Did she completely forget about all of the women she helped over the last 8 years?  

Stepping away from the horrifying misconceptions that Abby attempts to make fact in her film, I wanted to touch briefly on a personal encounter that I had with Abby. A few years prior to this film being released, Abby came and talked to my high school, my Catholichigh school. This wasn’t out of character, seeing as Catholic teaching is pro-life. However, when we filed into the gym that day, I knew something was off. 

Immediately Abby started spewing inaccurate facts, and in real time, a few boys in my class were checking to see if what she was saying was incorrect (which, sure enough, it was). They raised their hands after her presentation concluded and respectfully told her how her numbers did not make sense and how they would like to learn how she came to those conclusions. 

She then told them how they were anti-woman advocates and toxic to the pro-life movement. When the boys tried to defend themselves, she said that what they were saying was in line with Nazism. Yes, a grown woman compared a group of 15-year-old boys asking legitimate questions to Nazis. 

(Gif courtesy of GIPHY)

So, all in all, form your own opinions on Unplanned. Debate with me, start a conversation about what you believe in, I welcome it. Just please remember that anger and hate will get you nowhere successful in life and basing your success in the shame and harassment of a group that you are trying to protect is anything but advocacy.