‘Unplanned’ Movie Reaches Many with Message of Grace

Franklin Graham calls on churches to pray and be peaceful activists

It’s perhaps the most contentious public issue of the past half century. Politicians invariably take sides, activists and lobbyists seek to influence public opinion, judges are scrutinized to see how they might rule.

But amid all the debates, many people try to turn a blind eye to the stark reality of tiny, living bodies being cut to pieces in the womb. 

That’s the reality that triggered a 180-degree turn in Abby Johnson’s life when she saw it for herself. During the eight years that Johnson volunteered and worked for a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas—rising to the position of clinic director—she defended the clinic’s work countless times against pro-life advocates. 

Facilitating some 22,000 abortions during that time, she would escort women from their cars to the clinic as pro-life activists stood by. Some would shout angrily or hold up posters with gruesome images of aborted babies. Others, however, simply stood by and prayed quietly.

One day in 2009, already disturbed by the pressure she was experiencing to raise profits by increasing the number of abortions performed at the clinic, Johnson was asked to assist in an ultrasound-guided abortion procedure. 

She entered the exam room and watched as a baby struggled to avoid the abortionist’s probe but eventually “crumpled” as it was vacuumed from its mother’s womb. Johnson has described that moment as a conversion. “I just thought, What am I doing? And then I thought, Never again,” she said later.

Johnson sought out some of the pro-life people she had seen standing and praying. Within weeks she joined them, and she has gone on to become a much sought-after advocate for the unborn. She founded an organization called And Then There Were None that has helped some 500 clinic workers leave the abortion industry. Her 2010 book “Unplanned” made waves, and when that story was released as a feature film this spring, it overcame Hollywood-imposed obstacles and a limited box-office release to debut at No. 4 and remain in the top 10 through its second weekend.

In the weeks prior to the film’s release, producers cried foul when nine of 10 requests to license music for the movie were turned down by music labels. Then, the Motion Picture Association of America informed Pure Flix Entertainment, the film’s distributor, that “Unplanned” would be rated R unless all scenes of abortions were removed or altered. 

Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, the movie’s co-writers and co-directors, wrote: “We consider the MPAA’s current standards to be deeply flawed, insofar as they allow scenes of remarkably graphic sex, violence, degradation, murder and mayhem to have a PG-13 rating, whereas our film, highlighting the grave dangers of abortion in a straightforward manner, is considered dangerous for the American people to view.”

Believing the public needs to know what abortion really is, they refused to change the film.

Actress Ashley Bratcher, who portrays Johnson in the movie, joined Franklin Graham in a Facebook video interview April 9 that garnered nearly 100,000 views in less than three hours. 

Bratcher said she didn’t know much about Johnson when she auditioned for the film role, so she went looking for more information. 

“When I did,” Bratcher said, “that rocked my world. Just hearing Abby’s testimony changed everything for me.” 

When the producers called to offer Bratcher the role, she accepted immediately, although she knew that taking the movie could hurt her acting career or even get her blacklisted. 

“I had said yes to the Lord as soon as I knew Abby’s testimony,” Bratcher said, “and I had prayed. I said, ‘God, please let me be the one to tell this story.’ … And just thinking of all of the people who are affected by this movie, I don’t care if I work another day in my life.”

The role became even more personal for Bratcher when her mother told her that Ashley herself had very nearly been aborted. Her mother was on the table at an abortion clinic, preparing for the procedure, when she realized that she could not go through with it. She left the clinic and eventually gave birth to Ashley.

Bratcher has long considered herself pro-life, and she took a bold stand against more than 50 powerful celebrities who had written a letter March 25 threatening to boycott the state of Georgia if a pro-life “heartbeat” bill were to pass (which it did; it was sent to Gov. Brian Kemp April 4, and he was expected to sign it).

Bratcher unleashed a powerful response March 28, writing in part: “Let me make something very clear to you. In Georgia, we care just as much about being pro-life as being pro-film. We don’t believe in putting a price tag on the value of a human life. Our brave leaders have stepped up to say enough is enough, we will no longer sit idly by as innocent lives are taken by the thousands each day. If you fault Georgia for choosing to be morally correct over politically correct, then that says more of your personal agenda than the goal of our governor to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. You claim that the HB481 ‘heartbill bill’ would make Georgia the most regressive state in the country; I couldn’t disagree more. Abortion is so 1973. Welcome to 2019, a time in which medical advances preserve the life of babies born as early as 21 weeks.”

In the Facebook interview, Franklin Graham emphasized that if a woman has had an abortion, God will forgive her if she will confess her sin and repent. And he expressed hope that “Unplanned” might rouse churches to act: “My prayer,” Franklin said, “is that there’ll be an army of churches. That they will not go down to the abortion clinics to scream and yell and say ‘baby killer’ and hold up graphic pictures, but to pray.”  

Header Image: 2019/Samaritan's Purse