“Abby, they need an extra person back in the exam room. Are you free?” So opens the upcoming feature film drama, “Unplanned.” An advance screening was held at Christ Cathedral’s Freed Theater on Mar. 1.
Based on the autobiographical book of the same name by Abby Johnson, “Unplanned” follows Johnson (played by Ashley Bratcher) as a rising star within Planned Parenthood as a counselor and later director at a Bryan/College Station, TX clinic, and her involvement in 22,000 abortions despite reservations from her husband Doug and her mother and father.
Johnson develops a gradual friendship with Coalition for Life (now known as 40 Days for Life) members constantly holding vigil outside the clinic. Eventually, Johnson must confront her own misgivings about the career she has chosen, following a harrowing experience in the clinic.
At Christ Cathedral’s advance screening, Bishop Kevin Vann spoke to the packed audience prior to the film’s showing. Citing the example of his mother, the late Theresa Vann, a perinatal nurse and health educator for nearly 50 years, Bishop Vann reinforced the need for tireless advocacy for the sanctity of life.
Following the screening, Diocese of Orange Chancellor Dr. Pia de Solenni hosted a panel discussion featuring Yvonne Florzak Seeman, founder of Love From Above, a ministry for post-abortive women, and pro-life activist Jason Jones of Movie to Movement, a producer of the 2006 film, “Bella.”
Two cast members from “Unplanned” also participated in the panel, Robia Scott and Kaiser Johnson. The actors discussed their involvement in a film seen as going against the grain of typical Hollywood fare. Johnson acknowledged the career risk in associating with such a film as “Unplanned.”
“I’m a Christian and pro-life,” Johnson said, who plays an attorney in the film. He said the film’s themes prompted him to question his own acting roles. “Am I living [my values] in the choices I make artistically?”
Orange County resident Robia Scott, who portrayed Cheryl, Abby Johnson’s supervisor at Planned Parenthood, came out of retirement to participate in the film after a chance meeting with “Unplanned” filmmakers Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman. Scott noted the film’s themes resonated with her own full-time work as a Christian speaker, teacher, and founder of Robia Ministries.
“I saw her driven and passionate,” Scott said of her character. “Yet for her it wasn’t so much caring about the people as it was about building an empire.”
Solomon and Konzelman, screenwriters behind “God’s Not Dead,” “God’s Not Dead 2,” and “Do You Believe?,” among other works, co-wrote and directed “Unplanned” on a budget of about $6 million. Pure Flix is distributing the film, the production company behind feature films such as the “God’s Not Dead” series, “The Case for Christ,” and last year’s “Samson.”
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rated “Unplanned” R for its depiction of abortion procedures. “The fact that the MPAA deemed abortion as enough of a violent act to give it an R-rating says something in itself,” Scott said.
Abby Johnson herself is now the CEO and Founder of And Then There Were None, a nonprofit that “exists to help assist abortion clinic workers leave the abortion industry,” according to its website, abortionworker.com. Johnson and her husband converted to Catholicism in 2012. They are now expecting their eighth child.
“Unplanned” is slated to be released nationwide on Mar. 29. Tickets are available at unplannedfilm.com.