Based on the memoir by Planned Parenthood clinic director-turned-pro-life activist Abby Johnson, Unplanned opens on the crucial Saturday in September 2009 when, per Johnson’s conversion story, Abby (Ashley Bratcher, War Room) is asked to assist with an ultrasound-guided abortion and witnesses the image of a 13-week-old fetus squirming in an apparent effort to avoid the vacuum cannula that proceeds to dismember its body piece by piece.
The extended flashback that follows over the next hour or so includes a number of other disturbing abortion incidents from Abby’s life and career, including two of her own. One of hers goes badly wrong, as does one at the Bryan, Texas, facility where she works. Unplanned isn’t the most disturbing treatment of abortion I’ve seen in film, but it’s queasy enough, which is the intent.
The most horrific abortion-themed film I’ve ever seen would be Cristian Mungiu’s 2007 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, which is about an illegal abortion in 1980s Romania.
Mungiu’s film took no position for or against abortion, but viewers on both sides of the abortion debate found in it at least some support for their own views — a token, I think, of the film’s trueness to life.
Abortion advocates saw in the nightmare circumstances entangling two young women a scathing indictment of the Romanian anti-abortion laws, making desperate women vulnerable to predatory black-market abortion providers.
For pro-lifers, the human dignity of unborn life was attested in the film’s attention to the fate of the fetus, from the unflinching shot of the tiny face and ruined body lying on a tile floor amid bloody towels to the mother’s urgent need to see her baby buried rather than disposed as waste, and the guilt and grief when this doesn’t happen.
Although the abortions in Unplanned are legal, an illicit back-alley aura hangs over a horrible scene in which a sedated young woman (Bella Altamura) in the recovery room begins bleeding out from a perforated uterus, leading to a panicky, prolonged effort to stabilize her without the PR hit of summoning an ambulance. Compounding the queasiness, Abby is forced to tell reassuring lies to the worried father in the waiting room.
Another scene includes a close-up on translucent fetal remains that Abby examines with detached fascination in the the POC room, where dismembered body parts are reassembled to ensure that nothing has been left in the uterus. POC stands for “products of conception,” though one of the other employees morbidly jokes that it really stands for “pieces of children.”
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.