The Film

Unplanned, based on the memoirs of Abby Johnson, is a film that follows Abby as a clinic director at a Texas Planned Parenthood location, and her subsequent transition to Pro-Life activist. After eight years of working and running a clinic that performed dozens of abortions daily, Abby witnessed one for herself, causing an immediate paradigm shift and soon ended her career with Planned Parenthood and began her life as an anti-abortion activist.

Unplanned has sparked controversy since it’s inception, with a tight lid placed around production as to avoid protests by abortion rights advocates. The opening line of the film is certainly telling of the remainder, “My story isn’t easy to hear,” a quote that rings true for all viewers of the film regardless of their political views. Abby’s story is a lengthy affair of unfortunate events and misadventures that ultimately lead up to her sudden and controversial career change. The graphic abortion she witnesses in the movie has been disputed by some experts, saying that the squirming and twisting depicted is inaccurate. Abby goes from having an abortion, chemical abortion, divorce, marriage, pregnancy, murder of a colleague, and many more trying life events before eventually flipping the coin from Abortion-Advocate to Anti-Abortionist. 

The film is distinctly anti-abortion, that must be stated very clearly. The events it’s based upon overtly lead the viewer on Abby’s journey to ‘redemption?’ The original working title of the film was “Redeemed” which presents a more apt title to the message the directors are trying to get across. 

There are many distinct directorial cues and methods used to direct empathy towards the Pro-Lifers and away from the “Abortionists.” Note: the terminology in this film is based mostly on the preference of the Pro-Life perspective, using compassionate terms towards Pro-Lifers and harsher terms like Abortionist to Pro-Choicers. The term Pro-Choice is never mentioned in the film. 

The script wholeheartedly supports the agenda of this film. The Planned Parenthood employees are seen as deceivers attempting to mislead you into an abortion under the blind guise of “women’s rights.” Abby’s superior in the film is portrayed as the villain, being the personification of Planned Parenthood. The lines written for her are akin to the writing for a high school bully in a teen drama. It’s no wonder the film was created without the permission or assistance of Planned Parenthood. 

The music, which sounds like a Christian radio station, is seemingly used to support the “goodies” and to condemn the “baddies.” The opening musical montage to the film holds the line: “This could change everything,” echoing the tagline “What she saw changed everything.” During moments of intense praying, silent protest, mourning an aborted foetus, etc., the music clearly attempts to pull on your heartstrings and cause empathy towards the intended characters, much like any other film but in this case, it seems overtly political. When Abby turns away from her Pro-Life family causing them pain, the music demands goose bumps from the viewer. No such music is ever played around the Planned Parenthood employees. 

The lighting used in the film also hits home on its Pro-Life agenda. Soft and warm tones are used around the Pro-Lifers and harsher, blue lighting depicts the apparent coldness of the Planned Parenthood employees. It’s these slight cues that put me off from enjoying the film’s idea. I couldn’t help getting away from the feeling that this was one long advertisement saying: “Pro-Lifers are compassionate and loving people, while Abortionists are cold-hearted deceivers willing to mislead your daughters, sisters, girlfriends and wives to abort their ‘babies.’”

In conclusion, this film falls short of it’s intended purpose: to win over the hearts and minds of people to the Pro-Life cause. Consistently throughout, the opposing factions are portrayed as compassion versus deception, love versus hate, enlightenment versus ignorance. The film isn’t badly made, but the political agenda laid out unfortunately prevented me from enjoying Abby’s compelling story. Perhaps with a neutral party, this film could have been an interesting two hours, but alas no: the forceful agenda of compassion felt like I was being indoctrinated. If you absolutely need to watch this film, work away: it’s not a terrible film; but if you’re concerned with being manipulated by Pro-Lifers over two hours, maybe give this one a miss.

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The Controversy 

In a press statement on the 7th of October, unofficial UCD group, UCD For Life, accused UCD Student’s Union of “institutional discrimination against pro-life students.” The group alleges that the Union has “publicly endorsed the removal of posters promoting the new film, Unplanned…” One member of the UCDSU team posted on Instagram calling on students to remove the posters. In a statement to the Tribune, a spokesperson for the Union said: “UCDSU did not remove any posters or materials on bathroom doors in UCD. We have no authority over what is put up or taken down in buildings in UCD. Like all student societies and companies we have to request access to put our materials up on bathroom doors through Estates and Student Services, depending on the location.” UCDSU did not deny the alleged endorsement. 

In the UCD For Life press statement there was no mention of posters on bathroom doors. Following the press statement, the group posted multiple photos of remains of removed posters online, many of which were on the outdoor concourse area. 

In a Facebook post, the ‘Life Society UCD’ (@UCDforlife) publicly invited members of the UCDSU executive team to a free viewing of the film in the Savoy theatre: “…we want to invite the executive members of UCD Students’ Union to the screening tonight so they can see what we saw and make up their own minds about it.” No sabbatical members of UCDSU were in attendance. Although tagging the Union’s Facebook page in the post, the Union responded in a statement to the Tribune saying: “The Union was not aware of any invitation to the screening.”


Conor Capplis – Editor