The venue for a pre-screening of “Unplanned,” a pro-life movie about the conversion story of Abby Johnson, a former Texas Planned Parenthood clinic director who is now a pro-life activist, was apropos. The Feb. 21 event, sponsored by the Human Life Review, was held at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in lower Manhattan, located next to the Margaret Sanger Planned Parenthood Center.
“Watching someone play the worst version of yourself,” Mrs. Johnson said in the panel discussion that followed, “it’s been really humbling.”
“It’s really to show everybody that our pasts are redeemable. Anything that we have been through in our lives, God is ready to redeem that and to really use it for His glory. And so it’s really His story, in the end.”
Mrs. Johnson said her husband Doug—the couple became Catholics at Easter 2012 and are expecting their eighth child in June—has assured her the movie “is going to change lives.”
“Unplanned,” based on Mrs. Johnson’s bestselling book, will be released in theaters March 29 under the same name.
Mrs. Johnson worked for Planned Parenthood for eight years, culminating as clinic director in Bryan, Texas. She said she helped to facilitate 22,000 abortions. She was Planned Parenthood’s Employee of the Year in 2008 but walked away from her job after witnessing the brutal death of a 13-week-old preborn baby during an ultrasound-guided abortion.
Actress Ashley Bratcher, who plays Abby Johnson in the movie, told the full house of attendees at the evening Sheen Center event it was “definitely a divinely appointed role for me.”
Although Ms. Bratcher was pro-life before her audition, reading pages from the script and learning more about Mrs. Johnson’s work at Planned Parenthood was life-changing “because I think like most of general America, I had no idea what an actual abortion procedure entailed. I was kind of middle-of-the-road.
“I was pro-life but I didn’t think I could force that on anyone else. It blew me away, and I knew at that very moment that it had changed my perception and that I needed to be a part of this movie, without hesitation. So I prayed for it for a long time.” And then came the call that the role was hers.
Ms. Bratcher later learned that while her mother was 19 and carrying her in the womb, she went to a clinic to have an abortion but ultimately chose to have her. “What was so mind-blowing about that was that I never knew until after I had accepted this role. It was just such confirmation to me that God plans our steps from conception, that my story would come full circle. I think it was really courageous for my mom to tell me that because it was really evident that God’s hand was involved. And I think it brought healing to her.
“I’m just honored that God would even give me the platform to be a part of this,” Ms. Bratcher said.
After Mrs. Johnson left Planned Parenthood and became a national news headline for her defection, she would go on to achieve a pro-life speaking career. In 2012, she founded “And Then There Were None,” a ministry that helps abortion workers leave their jobs and find employment outside the industry. She has aided 500 former abortion workers in that capacity.
“Unplanned” is also a call to action, according to Mrs. Johnson who, earlier in life, had two abortions herself. “This movie really provides an opportunity for conversion for every single person who watches it. Even the person who is pro-life—how are you being active in the pro-life movement? Are you doing things that are effective or are you just saying...‘I’m pro-life’ and checking a box?”
For naysayers who claim only Christians will see the movie, Mrs. Johnson counters that they need to, because “if every Christian was actually serious and active in the pro-life movement, we would have already ended this thing.”
She was quick to add she is confident those who advocate for abortion rights and who work in abortion clinics will also watch the movie, albeit as critics. “And that’s awesome. And I welcome their criticism.” She likes critics, she said, as it “tells me who I need to be praying for.”
“Hopefully, prayerfully,” Mrs. Johnson said, “they will go into the film and they will find truth, and it will really prick their conscience and cause them to question what they’re doing…”
She concedes some may watch the film and afterward still define themselves as pro-choice “but they’ll never be able to walk out and say, ‘Well, I just didn’t know.’ They will know. So their culpability will be there for them, and then they’ll have to make the decision.”
While on the Sheen Center stage for the panel discussion, Mrs. Johnson gently touched her baby bump and afterward joyfully acknowledged to CNY, “I could feel the baby moving around.”
“There’s something special about going through all this,” promoting the movie and promoting life, she added. She likes being on the speaking circuit while being with child because it sends the obvious message, “‘I really am pro-life, y’all—look.’”
If the child is a boy, the Johnsons plan to name him Fulton. Acknowledging the namesake of the Sheen Center—Archbishop Fulton Sheen—Mrs. Johnson added, “this is appropriate.”