By Barbara Toth
Unplanned, the true story of Planned Parenthood defector Abby Johnson, opens in theaters March 29. Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman (God's Not Dead and Do You Believe?), co-writers and co-directors of the film, have high hopes for the film.
Speaking with Church Militant, Solomon and Konzelman said, "Ultimately, we're hoping that the Goliath of abortion goes down. Not just the nation's largest abortion provider, but abortion itself. It's a barbaric practice, and only willful blindness on a societal level has allowed it to exist for so long."
The film is based on Johnson's 2010 book Unplanned in which she chronicles her story about working at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas for eight years. Johnson rose through the ranks to become clinic director, firmly believing her work was helping women in need.
But one day in 2009, Abby's life changed forever. It was a change that rivaled that of Saul, killer of Christians, falling off his horse and being born anew as Paul, saver of souls.
The conversion happened as she assisted with an ultrasound-guided abortion of a 13-week baby. This moment, the crux of Abby's story, set into motion a series of events that has rerouted her life and has saved many lives as a result.
This moment represented "A battle that was lost in the blink of an eye," Johnson writes in her book, referring to the baby's fight for, and ultimately the loss of, his life at the hand of the abortionist. This moment is embedded in the larger context of the lie told to women about to abort: "The one thing all experts agree on is that at this stage the fetus can't feel anything."
The film also chronicles Abby's post-Planned Parenthood life — a rocky exit from Planned Parenthood, how she became an enemy of one of the most powerful organizations on the planet and the legal battle that ensued with Planned Parenthood.
Now Abby helps hundreds of workers exit the abortion industry through And Then There Were None (ATTWC), a nonprofit group founded "to love abortion workers out of the abortion industry."
Solomon and Konzelman talked about the significance of the title of their film with Church Militant: "Of course, the film takes its name from Abby's book," but "it has double and triple entendres."
"We incorporated the word most commonly associated with unplanned pregnancies. Plus there's a subtle pun about leaving Planned Parenthood — un-Planned — [which] made it pretty clear that this would be the title of our film."
But the significance of the word "unplanned" fanned out into greater significance as the filming unfolded, according to Solomon and Konzelman. They said that the production of the film was full of unplanned challenges — and miraculous resolutions.
"We learned to walk our way through a series of seemingly insurmountable obstacles — the solution for each of which appeared at the last possible moment."
Four days away from the start of shooting, [we were] without a lead actress at a time when delaying our start date by even one day would have collapsed the entire financing structure for the film.
Things like that got us used to the idea of operating an environment where the seemingly impossible had to be accomplished on a routine basis. But the power to do so clearly didn't belong to us.
"Everyone who's worked on the film has been touched" in unexpected and unplanned ways, Solomon and Konzelman said referring to God working through the lives of the entire crew.
They gave the example of actor Ashley Bratcher (War Room) who plays the role of Abby, discovering after she arrived on set that she was an abortion survivor. Her mother had made an appointment for Ashley to be aborted, had actually gone into the clinic — and then inexplicably fled the facility.
Another young woman who worked on set confessed to a past abortion and underwent a miraculous healing from an incurable disease she was suffering!
To offset the unplanned challenges and even the dangers of producing a pro-life film, Solomon and Konzelman said: "We learned to gather together as a group, pray in earnest, and wait for the Lord to straighten things out. It was like we were living out the old saying that God is seldom early, but never late."
The co-directors have personally invited Church Militant readers to "pray along with us ... that this film can do for abortion what Uncle Tom's Cabin did for slavery: open a nation's eyes to an injustice that needs to be eradicated."
Above all, how could we forget the unborn child who lived for 13 weeks, who fought for and then gave his life on Sept. 29, 2009. Unborn, unnamed, he is nonetheless the hero of the film, the sine qua non. He did not die in vain — the film Unplanned alone gives testament to his life and death. This child's sacrifice worked through Abby, and the entire crew of Unplanned, to help start a movement to end the slaughter of innocents. It's up to us to carry on the torch.
Solomon and Konzelman also personally requested that Church Militant readers think about seeing this film "on opening weekend."
Why? "Exhibitors who own the movieplexes in everyone's neighborhood determine the fate of a movie in the first 48–72 hours of release. Ticket sales over that period determine which films are going to be allowed to play over the following weeks."
Playing in the background of the sneak preview of Unplanned is Francesca Battistelli's "This Could Change Everything." The words are apt and seem prescient. Unplanned could change everything: "Let it begin!"