Every culture has its mythology. So does every sub-culture. The pro-life movement as a sub-culture of Roman Catholicism has its own mythology that rivals that of the Greek and Roman pantheons. The film, “Unplanned” (Directed by Cary Solomon & Chuck Konzelman; starring Ashley Bratcher as Abby Johnson, distributed by Pure Flix) is to the pro-life movement what Edith Hamilton’s classic Mythology is to, well–mythology–a guided tour to stories which have been carefully constructed to fit the figments of our own imaginations and to explain why the world is as it is. In this case, the Unplanned myths attempt to explain the evil of abortion in the context of Roman Catholic mythology (doctrine).
I say this as someone who wants to end abortion. I write it as someone who has invested years in working to end it. I do not identify as pro-life because that term has come to mean very little other than a political designation over the last 46 years. I identify as an abolitionist. There is a big difference.
As an abolitionist I call abortion “murder” because that is what it is. It is the premeditated destruction of human life with malice aforethought. Since that is true, the only ethical way to end this slaughter is to do so immediately, not incrementally. We do not regulate murder. We work to end abortion now because babies are murdered here. The key word is “urgency.”
Being an abolitionist, I believe that the only way to end this is with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The pro-life movement often says that we need to change hearts to change minds on this issue. I only know of ONE way to do that–with the truth that Jesus Christ died for sinners and rose from the dead. The one who repents and trusts in Him alone for salvation will be saved. The one who does that has a new heart (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The first half of the film does an admirable–an excellent–job portraying abortion for what it is–murder (although it takes great pains not to call it that). The depictions of chemical abortion are accurate even if the infamous depiction of the surgical abortion on ultrasound is sterilized. Bratcher does an excellent job portraying this story throughout.
So let’s deconstruct the pantheon of gods by examining the individual stories that make up the larger mythology. Then we will finish by examining the presupposition that renders the effectiveness of this film powerless.
1. Abby Johnson was a Planned Parenthood director, but did not know what an abortion really was.
The film makers would have us believe that Abby became the director of a Planned Parenthood and that she worked in one capacity or another in that institution for eight years without having ever known anything about what abortion is. They would have us believe that she was called in to assist in place of an ultrasound technician during an abortion and that in so doing, she dissolved in a pool of tears because she had no idea what it was that they were doing in surgery. They would have us believe this in spite of the fact that Abby is portrayed as both fascinated and iron-clad in her resolve as she examined an aborted babies hand in the P.O.C. room long before she was ever promoted to the position of director, presumably some years before the watershed event of the abortion assist. She is shocked at this in spite of the pain and regret that the film depicts after two of her own abortions.
This defies common sense and whoever edited the film did not have the good sense to see the contradiction. Sadly, not many who see this film will see the contradiction either. This film has been marketed by pro-lifers to pro-lifers and no one will question the facts in Abby Johnson’s claim.
At least they won’t in the pro-life movement. But they have been questioned elsewhere and with good reason.
2. The Myth of Victims of Circumstance
Throughout the film, abortive women from Abby right on down to the average teenager is a victim of circumstance. But not just abortive women. Planned Parenthood staffers are also victims of mean men who yell in front of clinics and their churches that preach against abortion. They are victims of a greedy corporate entity while their motives are pure and focused on helping women. This is not from a Planned Parenthood brochure. This is the depiction in the film. You know, the pro-life film that is presumably against abortion.
At this point you could be forgiven for saying, “Now isn’t that a bit harsh? Maybe the film makers are trying to refrain from demonizing abortion clinic workers. After all, Abby’s non-profit works to get people out of that industry and into other jobs.”
Then perhaps you should explain why it is that the film makers chose to depict the Planned Parenthood staff as heroic when they doubled up their appointments in order to get all of the abortions in just before a hurricane made landfall. Here is a question for the director: “What in the name of Sam Hill are you thinking laying the sound track for ‘You’re An Overcomer’ (by Mandisa) over that sequence?” “Cringe worthy” does not begin to describe it. Are you serious? They are doing abortions for crying out loud. They’re not overcomers! Wasn’t there anything available from the Nightmare on Elm Street sound tracks?
But this is the philosophy in the modern pro-life movement. Everyone, EVERYONE is a victim. No one, NO ONE is a murderer when they have an abortion. In the pro-life world, abortion is murder but everyone is the victim and no one pulled the trigger. It is a mystery, a whodunit of epic proportions. 60 million dead and no one is really culpable.
It turns out there is a specific reason for this sort of depiction, but more on that later.
3. The Myth of the Pro-Life Husband of a Planned Parenthood Director
How in the world does someone who is pro-life marry someone who volunteers at Planned Parenthood? And if he does, why in the world does he not stand up for babies while his wife is murdering them?
Wait a minute. No. I take that back. That’s entirely plausible.
Given the fact that the pro-life movement has been marked by incremental steps toward ending what we all call murder, why wouldn’t this depiction be accurate? When a decision to bury the aborted babies rather than treat them as medical waste is hailed as a victory, when abortionists are regulated by law to have admitting privileges at hospitals and that is considered progress, when bills which inadvertently redefine when life begins (heartbeat, pain capable, third trimester, protections only after they are born) move the goal posts all over the field, when pro-life regulation forces abortionists to do both the sonograms and pathology before and after the abortions expecting these measures to save a single life–well, yes, the spouse of an abortionist may very well be pro-life since he could justify murder as long as it could be phased out of the relationship eventually. Which is sort of what happened. So three cheers for incrementalism.
But there is the little problem of the contradiction between Hollywood and reality because Abby told a journalist that her husband wanted her to work at the Planned Parenthood for a couple of weeks after she quit because they could not make it on one income. She couldn’t take it after one week, so she quit. One more week killing babies surgically, handing out the bloody RU-486 to suburban teenagers and doing an interview with a Feminist radio show the day after her mid-abortion conversion. Contrast all of that with the film version.
The Myths Explained by the Mythology
Does the mythology of Roman Catholicism explain the details of the various myths presented in Unplanned? Absolutely.
In Roman Catholic doctrine, abortion is murder and murder is a mortal sin. Mortal sins result in people going to Hell. That’s not very positive, encouraging or psychologically helpful to post-abortive women.
Unless, of course, you build a loophole into your theology (mythology) that says that “unintentional ignorance” removes the “imputability” of a grave offense (see “mortal sin”). I have written on this more extensively, with footnotes, here.
So why is everyone a victim? They can be more easily counselled when they “convert” to pro-lifeism. Guilt can be acquitted on the basis of plausible deniability and still remain within the pale of Roman Catholicism. They can plead ignorance and therefore not be guilty of murder.
Whatever this is, it is not repentance. Repentance involves turning from sin and that, at the most basic level, means calling that sin what God calls it. Repentance is not denial. It is owning our sin, taking responsibility for it, and then turning to Jesus Christ alone and His substitutionary death and resurrection for our salvation in faith. It is His righteousness that we need because we have none of our own (Romans 1-5).
This repentance and faith in Christ is the only thing that can cleanse a guilty conscience. It cleanses from all sin (Ephesians 1:7).
This film does not refer to Jesus Christ. It does not refer to His work on the cross or repentance and faith in Him alone. Abortion is wrong in this film because it hurts women, not because it kills babies. It is not wrong because it is a violation of God’s Law (1 John 3:4). In this film, abortion is destructive but it is a man-centered destruction. Becoming pro-life is not true conversion. It is merely self reformation. Salvation belongs to the LORD and it comes only through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
Before the March for Life in Washington, D.C., I was able to attend an event held at the Family Research Council. During that event, the writers of Unplanned and Ashley Bratcher gave a live stream interview regarding the film. In that interview, the writers bragged about prayer meetings that included Roman Catholics, Protestants, rabbis, and atheists (33:40 mark).
My questions to anyone who thinks that this kind of thing will be used of God to end abortion are these:
1. What god are we praying to to end abortion?
2. Why should the true and living God of the Bible answer our prayers?
Without a commitment to the true gospel and to the true and living God, these babies have no hope. They are left to our powerless pro-life mythologies and those gods cannot even save themselves.