It seems as though the abortion debate has kicked back into high gear within the last year. In some ways, this feels like it came out of nowhere. I remember when protests over abortion were commonplace, but then things became quiet, and those on the pro-life side seemed resigned to the idea of abortion being a reality.
Then, in 2015, a series of secretly recorded, controversial videos were released about Planned Parenthood. These videos seemed to light a new spark in the public conversation about abortion.
The Success of Unplanned
Since its release, Unplanned has grossed over $18 million in sales. In Canada, it is playing in a limited showing of 49 screens across the country. On opening weekend, the movie grossed about $345,000 in sales for an average of a little more than $7,000 per screen. My best guess is this amounts to around 31,000 Canadians who saw the movie over the weekend.
I have no way of being able to say if this is “successful” or not. The numbers seem low, but they are also based off a minimal amount of movie screens in Canada. According to some figures I have read, there are about 600 movie theatres in Canada – which means Unplanned was showing in less than 10% of available theatres.
The real success of Unplanned is not in the numbers, it is in the impact of the story.
The Impact of the Story
I had the opportunity to view Unplanned with my wife this past weekend. It is the story of Abby Johnson, a former clinic director for Planned Parenthood. The movie, based on the book that also tells her story, is generally well done.
Unplanned is not what I expected. Rather than being an all-out attack on abortion, it is a raw, personal story. Abby Johnson had two abortions herself and worked her way up the ladder of Planned Parenthood despite the objections of her parents and husband. Johnson convinced herself she was doing good. Over the years, a series of incidents began to shake her faith in Planned Parenthood and also caused her to consider the impact abortion was having in the lives of the women she was serving. The final turning point, and probably the most powerful scene for me, was when she was in the room as an abortion was about to happen and saw a child “disappear” from an ultrasound image.
Unplanned takes people on an emotional journey with Abby Johnson. This is the power of the story. Instead of feeling preached at, you feel connected to this woman who is trying to make sense of her purpose in life.
In case you have not figured this out yet, I am pro-life. I believe the Bible teaches life begins at conception, and we are to protect the sanctity of human life.
Unplanned is in movie theatres, so now what? In Canada, there are no abortion laws, and every government leader has publicly said they have no desire to open up the debate. What can we do?
- Pray. Unplanned does a great job of showing how people praying for change can see God at work.
- Understand the other side. When I hear pro-choice people speak, what I hear is an argument that says, “don’t tell me what to do with my body.” I hear a case against top-down authority rather than an argument against the life of a baby. This is important. It tells us that real change isn’t going to happen primarily by changing laws, it’s going to happen by changing hearts.
- Have helpful conversations. Unplanned shows how pro-life people can be jerks or can be helpful. Be helpful by having good conversations with the people around you. Seek to genuinely love them and hear their story. You may not be aware of their personal experiences that have shaped their beliefs. My wife is surrounded by women at work who are talking about abortion right now. She is asking great questions to help them think about why they believe what they believe. She also knows how to respond to some of the most common comments they are mentioning.
- Ask – When does life begin? Depending on who you read, a baby in the womb has a heartbeat somewhere around 6 to 8 weeks after conception. Is it a baby at that point? Before? After?
- Ask – Is it OK to have a partial birth abortion? If not, when is it OK and what makes that the timeline?
- Did you know that only about 1% of abortions are because of rape? Many people use rape as a reason to justify abortion.
- Did you know that about 24% of abortions are for medical reasons? This is another point that is often raised to justify an abortion. It means 75% of all abortions are for reasons other than rape or medical.
- How does abortion empower women? This is an important question. Think about the emotional and physical toll abortion can have and ask yourself how empowering that really is.
- Watch for distractions. Some people are trying to discount the story of Abby Johnson. I have read multiple stories about whether her story is entirely accurate or if she even used to work for Planned Parenthood (she did). These are distractions from the real issue – is abortion helpful or harmful for the people involved (including the unborn child)?
Abortion and Men
One final thought. Men are often left out of the abortion conversation, but that needs to change. In Unplanned, I was disappointed in Abby’s dad and his silence about her involvement with Planned Parenthood. It was also interesting to see the tension her husband felt. At times, he was silent, and in other moments, he spoke up. Through it all, his focus was on how much he loved his wife. It was powerful to watch his gentle confrontation in one scene. Later, he was simply present to hold her as she went through the emotions of reflecting on how many lives she had damaged through her work at Planned Parenthood.
Men need to step up and become engaged in this conversation. I recently interviewed Dr. Laura Lewis for the Promise Keepers Canada podcast as we talked about this very issue on how abortion impacts the lives of men.
Go and see Unplanned. Become part of the public discussion on abortion by talking to the people around you. It’s worth the effort. Why? To put it simply – because Jesus really loves life, kids, and women – and so should we.