Movie Review: Unplanned

Posted Jan 06, 2020

Unplanned: an Honest, Accurate and Persuasive Appeal to Stop the Killing

Theodore K Fenske

newborn baby

As a practicing physician‭, ‬parent of three children‭, ‬and long-time member of the Christian Medical and Dental Association of Canada‭, ‬I strongly endorse the film‭, ‬Unplanned‭, ‬and commend its viewing to everyone‭ (‬teenaged and older‭). ‬This also includes those who‭ ‬are against abortion‭, ‬those who are committed to promoting this so-called‭ ‬“reproductive health choice‭,‬”‭ ‬as well as those who are either ambivalent on the issue or‭, ‬if pressed‭, ‬feel abortion should be permitted‭. ‬For the former group‭, ‬my hope is that the film would encourage active involvement in pro-life work‭, ‬and for the others‭, ‬that it might awaken a clearer understanding as to the horror of abortion‭, ‬and stimulate a rethink of their stance‭.‬

To get a feel for the film’s initial reception‭, ‬I scanned a variety of reviews before watching it myself‭. ‬Not surprisingly‭, ‬it was a love/hate uptake‭, ‬with‭ ‬some reviewers lauding its content‭, ‬courage‭, ‬and veracity‭, ‬and others saying quite the opposite‭. ‬One such negative review really took me aback‭. ‬Describing the film as a‭ ‬“morality tale‭.‬”‭ ‬National Post writer‭, ‬Chris Knight‭, ‬criticised the film as being‭ ‬“useless propaganda and poorly made cinema packed with lies‭.‬”‭  ‬Needless to say‭, ‬my interest was piqued‭. ‬But as a result of reading all the negative critiques‭, ‬I started having doubts about‭ ‬the film quality myself‭. ‬I was concerned that‭, ‬while intending to deliver a clear pro-life message‭, ‬the production company‭, ‬Pure‭ ‬Flix‭ (‬God’s Not Dead‭, ‬The Case for Christ‭, ‬A Question of Faith‭), ‬may have overstated certain features of the abortion debate in the film‭, ‬all the while avoiding the more embarrassing bits‭, ‬and deliberately exaggerating other aspects‭. ‬Many movie producers do this‭, ‬of‭ ‬course‭, ‬and to their film’s detriment‭. ‬As I sat down in the packed-out theatre with my wife‭, ‬popcorn in one hand and Twizzlers in the other‭, ‬I braced myself for disappointment‭. ‬Fortunately‭, ‬none came‭. ‬Quite the opposite‭, ‬in fact‭. ‬From the riveting opening scene of the real-time ultrasound-guided abortion‭, ‬to the concluding credits scrolling along to the thoughtful soundtrack‭, ‬I experienced a whole host of feelings‭: ‬shock‭, ‬guilt‭, ‬revulsion‭, ‬confusion‭, ‬anger‭, ‬nausea‭, ‬and an alarming degree of deep-down grief‭. ‬But no disappointment‭. ‬Like other challenging films‭, ‬such as Schindler’s List and The Passion of The Christ‭, ‬the movie left me beaten up‭, ‬but didn’t let me down‭.‬

The film unashamedly brings attention to the reality of the abortion procedure‭. ‬While‭ ‬“pro-choice”‭ ‬activists might prefer this information be kept behind closed doors‭, ‬the bottom line of abortion is that babies are killed‭. ‬There’s no denying this‭. ‬After it’s all said and done‭, ‬innocent lives are lost‭, ‬and in unfathomable numbers‭. ‬Rhetorical claims to freedom of choice can’t hide this truth‭. ‬The producer of the film had a pro-life agenda‭, ‬to be sure‭, ‬but the notion that one can hold to a neutral position on abortion is a complete myth‭. ‬The abortion activists certainly don’t sit on so-called neutral ground as they bully conscientiously objecting physicians‭, ‬and should certainly not decry the production of a pro-life perspective‭, ‬regardless of how revealing its images may be and persuasive its message‭. ‬There is an important difference between propaganda and persuasion that needs to be understood‭. ‬The film does not use misleading audiovisuals to manipulate viewers‭, ‬nor cheap theatrics‭, ‬nor does it rely upon misinformation‭. ‬While Mr‭. ‬Knight criticized the film for misrepresenting Planned Parenthood’s abortion agenda‭, ‬he didn’t substantiate his charges‭, (‬very similar‭, ‬in fact‭, ‬to the failed lawsuit launched by Planned Parenthood against the film’s real-life protagonist‭, ‬Abby Johnson‭). ‬The abortion statistics available in the public domain certainly support the film’s concerns‭. ‬For example‭, ‬although the number of abortions performed in the US has fallen off in recent years owing to improved contraception access‭, ‬Planned Parenthood’s share of the abortion market has substantially grown‭. ‬The group’s own annual report indicates that the number of abortions provided by its clinics amounted to more than half of all the officially reported abortions in the U.S‭.  ‬Nothing short of an aggressive marketing strategy and shrewd business model could account for this expansion in the face of an overall national decline‭.‬

From a medical standpoint‭, ‬the depiction of the abortion procedure in the film is accurate‭. ‬I know this from experience and recall it now with some embarrassment‭. ‬During my training‭, ‬I spent numerous days in the Vancouver Women’s Pavilion surgical suites providing anaesthesia for long slates of abortion cases‭. ‬I remember all too well the vacutainer filling in spurts and starts with blood and body parts‭, ‬as the gynecologist made light of the situation with attempts at dark humor and distracting comments about golfing or the stock market‭. ‬It sickened me then‭, ‬and recalling the film’s opening scene‭, ‬sickens me still‭. ‬I can appreciate how witnessing the black and white ultrasound image of the baby fetus being‭ ‬suctioned apart‭, ‬juxtaposed with the bright red blood filling the container‭, ‬was so horrifying to Abby Johnson that she not only‭ ‬resigned as Clinic Director‭, ‬but made her life mission one of pro-life activism‭.‬

The film doesn’t limit its emphasis to the surgical suite and the abortion procedure‭, ‬but thoughtfully delves into a full array of the subject’s complexities‭. ‬There are recurring scenes which take place at the Planned Parenthood Clinic’s parking lot fence‭, ‬for example‭, ‬depicting the communications that employees and patients have with various groups of protesters‭. ‬Some of these interactions‭, ‬such as the angry accusations shouted by clinic staff to those at the fence and their immature use of the sprinkler system to purposely soak them‭, ‬or the protesters dressed in Grim Reaper costumes yelling vulgarities at arriving patients‭, ‬expose ugly aspects of the abortion debate‭. ‬However‭, ‬there are also numerous tender scenes that take place at the‭ ‬fence‭, ‬as well‭, ‬depicting pro-life groups praying over the clinic‭, ‬holding vigil for the unborn‭, ‬and making tireless attempts to‭ ‬engage patients and staff in relational conversation‭. ‬This is important because although this is a hyper-polarized‭, ‬emotionally‭-‬supercharged topic‭, ‬if an end to abortion is to be realized‭, ‬it won’t be from argumentation alone‭, ‬but will require the development of genuine caring relationships‭. ‬The film portrays well the inner turmoil and anguish experienced by expectant mothers who are struggling with an unwanted pregnancy‭, ‬and underscores their vulnerability and need for compassionate care‭. ‬In addition‭, ‬the film emphasizes not only the need for life-giving alternatives to pregnancy termination‭, ‬but the importance of extending compassion to those involved in abortion clinic work and pro-abortion activism‭.‬

Despite the negative media coverage of the film and the imposed limited theatre run‭, ‬Unplanned has swept the nation‭, ‬selling out‭ ‬in theatres from coast to coast‭, ‬even on weeknight viewings‭. ‬Supplemented by numerous private buy-outs across the country‭, ‬the‭ ‬film has even reached the number one position for per screen average in North America‭, ‬and is positioned for an extensive global‭ ‬expansion‭. ‬The timing of the film is critical because lives are hanging in the balance‭, ‬and momentum is building to help counter our current abortion-on-demand status‭. ‬With the growing number of American states passing‭ ‬“heartbeat”‭ ‬bills in the US‭, ‬which will ban abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy‭, ‬the day may be drawing nearer when the landmark‭ ‬1973‭ ‬Supreme Court case of Roe v.Wade gets overturned‭. ‬This would be welcome news for prolife advocacy groups worldwide‭, ‬particularly in our nation‭, ‬where abortion is without legal restriction and remains lawful at all stages of pregnancy‭. ‬Advocacy and resolve will be needed to stop this killing‭. ‬Make sure to take an important step in this direction and plan to see Unplanned‭. ‬