The release of the highly controversial film, “Unplanned,” has unsurprisingly sparked debate between anti- and pro-choice advocates. And though both sides base their arguments on moral, scientific, or political beliefs, the sweeping inaccuracies and falsehoods touted by Abby Johnson, whose alleged story is portrayed in the film, have been ignored.
The R-rated Christian film performed astonishingly well at box offices around the country. The film debuted at $6.4 million, surpassing box office projections and finishing fourth on its opening weekend.
It was so successful it was added to an additional 456 theaters on its second weekend, according to Deadline Hollywood.
For the most part, staunch anti-choice advocates are taking this movie as gospel. Supporters praise the so-called reality of a scene depicting a 13-week fetus “fighting for its life” during an on-screen abortion. They think it reveals a dark truth that could change the hearts and minds of those with pro-choice beliefs.
But regardless of any personal beliefs surrounding abortion, those who champion the film are simply refusing to see the movie for what it is: a dramatized version of one woman’s largely debunked story.
While this film has resonated so deeply with the population it was meant to appeal to, the fact remains that the “true story” of the film never actually happened.
Johnson, the former Planned Parenthood employee turned anti-abortion advocate on whom the film is based, claims in her memoir that she was required to assist with the abortion depicted in the film.
This is a lie.
Texas Monthly reported Johnson never assisted with an abortion during her time with the organization. The doctor on duty at the clinic in question has confirmed that no abortions were conducted on the day she claims the incident happened.
Furthermore, according to The New York Times, gynecologists and pediatricians have overwhelmingly said a fetus in the first 13 weeks of gestation would be unable to respond to any stimuli.
Gynecologist Jennifer Villavicencio said, “Broad scientific consensus is that fetuses cannot experience pain, and therefore would not recoil from it, until well after 13 weeks.”
Anthony Levatino, a retired gynecologist and pro-life advocate, has claimed the movie is “scientifically sound.” He also plays the doctor who performs the abortion in the film, so there’s obviously no conflict of interest there.
Though this film is marketed as “based on a true story,” it is thinly veiled anti-choice propaganda.
Several organizations have already taken steps to warn viewers that the film is propaganda, not a valiant attempt to fight “one of the most powerful organizations in the world,” as it claims.
Google has the movie listed as “drama/propaganda” when viewers search the film. Planned Parenthood itself has condemned the film as “full of inaccuracies.”
Most of the film’s conflict stems from a fictitious event meant to elicit shock and horror from audiences, which creates a dangerous precedent for claiming politically motivated films are “based on a true story” when they’re really “based on factless opinions and fear mongering.”
Film is a particularly dangerous medium for propaganda because it shows what appear to be real people in what appear to be real situations. Seeing is believing, but what are viewers supposed to do when what they’re seeing are blatant lies?
This brand of fear-based propaganda is particularly dangerous at this time, when lawmakers across the nation are trying to limit access to abortion. Texas legislators recently attempted to have abortion categorized as capital murder, an offense punishable by death in that state.
This movie doesn’t just exist in the abstract, technicolor world of filmography – women’s lives and bodies could be affected if people are “converted” to an anti-choice stance by the lies in this film.
If your argument is morally or scientifically defensible, there is no need to lie or misdirect. People who make the decision to oppose abortion should do so because they’ve been swayed by truth, not emotional manipulation.
However, the focus shouldn’t be on whether your political values align with the message of the film – but rather the danger of how quickly falsehoods spread and lies become fact once on the big screen.
This isn’t a call to boycott the film or to pull it from theaters. It’s a call to viewers to meet propaganda with scrutiny instead of becoming further entrenched on one’s beliefs.