“The people that need to be in the seats just won’t show up.” This was one of the most common concerns expressed for the movie “Unplanned,” based on the life of former Planned Parenthood clinic director turned pro-life leader Abby Johnson. And given the anti-life climate in our culture, who could blame anyone for making these comments? And then there were all of the roadblocks that were placed in the movie’s path, including an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America, the rejection of ads by major networks, and what amounted to a near-complete blackout by a vast majority of the secular news media.
Pro-life workers did show up in droves to theaters late last month. However, in addition to those whom we expected to support the film, helping it bring in more than $6 million in ticket sales that crucial first weekend — double the expected initial revenue — there were some new members of the so-called choir along with some powerful evidence showing how those new members, once staunch supporters of legalized abortion, have changed or are at least thinking about changing their tune.
One example of this was an opinion piece by a newspaper writer, Bridget Bayley from the Central Florida Post, who described herself as strongly pro-choice — at least that’s how she felt before seeing “Unplanned.” Now she’s not so sure.
“I was moved to tears several times during the film and actually appreciated the way that the workers of Planned Parenthood were portrayed. The women in the clinic were made to seem like they really did believe what they were doing was morally right and that they were helping the ‘patients.’ This was important to me because I knew there were members of the audience who have never seen the inside of a Planned Parenthood facility.
“By the end of the film, I was completely distraught, questioning everything I had ever believed about what abortion really was. I was hungry for more information; I went to Google; I talked with friends; and I prayed,” Bayley wrote. “This is not my story of how a movie made me change my political affiliation, and I still have many more questions about the validity of what I saw, but I went into that theater thinking there was NOTHING that could go onto that screen that would make me question myself, and I was wrong. What I saw DID make me question myself and my beliefs, and I believe that EVERYONE should go and test themselves as I did.”
Then there were some surprising thoughts expressed in the comments of other secular outlets, including this stunning revelation posted in response to a Variety article on the film. This woman had a complete turnaround on her once staunch pro-abortion views.
“I was not part of the choir by any means. But it challenged my thinking entirely. I’ve heard all the arguments, and I have had all the logical rebuttals. But to actually see it? It just made it indefensible, and it cut the legs out from under me. Any intellectually honest pro-choicer should be able to test their beliefs, and some lame Christian film shouldn’t be a threat, I told myself, but … all of my best talking points dissolved in the light of this portrayal. … I’m at a loss, as this was central to my belief system, and I now find it insupportable. As a woman, I can never again claim to be pro-woman and stand in favor of abortion. I’m out.”
Could it be that either we’re not just preaching to the choir or that the choir is getting larger? By the grace of God working through this important film, maybe both.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio, and the author of “Beyond Sunday: Becoming a 24/7 Catholic” (OSV, $14.95)