The release of “Unplanned” has most definitely energized the local
pro-life movement, said the executive director of Coalition for Life St.
“A lot of people have been to the movie and it’s
rejuvenated” people, said Brian Westbrook. “It’s certainly lighting a
fire under the current pro-life base.”
Coalition for Life and
others groups, including the archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate,
helped distribute more than 6,000 free tickets to the movie on its
opening weekend. They worked with Zip Rzeppa of Mater Media and Dr.
Helen Gelhot of Credo St. Louis, who did fundraising to purchase the
The movie ranked fourth in box office sales on opening weekend, bringing in about $6.3 million.
attended a screening in O’Fallon, Ill., where he met three teenagers
who told him how the movie opened their eyes to the reality of abortion.
They told him their parents have always taught them that abortion is
wrong, as it is the killing of a human life, but they didn’t understand
how painful it is or the complications a woman could experience.
“Getting their perspective, I can see how (the movie has) made an impact,” Westbrook said.
the movie’s release, Coalition for Life also has received about two
dozen requests for sidewalk counseling training. The organization trains
volunteers to stand along the sidewalk in front of the abortion clinic
to educate women about their choices and offer alternatives to abortion.
said he will also be interested in the movie’s impact on the spring 40
Days for Life campaign, in which more than 1,200 volunteers have
participated in prayer, fasting and vigil outside the abortion clinic.
“It’s been exciting to see what’s been happening, especially in the last
15 days or so,” he said.
Zip Rzeppa of Mater Media, which helped
with fundraising efforts to purchase and distribute tickets locally,
called the first weekend “tremendous. Movie are such a powerful force in
a culture and affect hearts, minds and souls,” Rzeppa said. “Because of
the subject matter and how it was produced, we wanted to get as many
people as possible to view this movie.”
The Respect Life
Apostolate has been promoting several resources, including an Options
brochure that offers alternatives to abortion, and post-abortion
ministries Project Rachel and Project Joseph. More information can be
found at stlrespectlife.org.
The apostolate also offers a monthly Helpers of God’s Precious Infant
Mass and Rosary procession to Planned Parenthood. The next one is
Saturday, May 18, with Mass at 8 a.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint
Louis; however, no Rosary procession will be held that day. The next
Mass with a procession will be Saturday, June 15.
Sisters of Christian Charity at Our Lady of Guadalupe Convent next to
Planned Parenthood also offer adoration, Mass and lunch to groups on the
second and fourth Fridays of the month. To schedule a group visit, call
the Respect Life Apostolate at (314) 792-7555.
Abby Johnson will
be the keynote speaker at the Respect Life Apostolate’s annual
convention Sunday, Oct. 13. More information will be available at
stlrespectlife.org in the future.
>> Actress who stars in ‘Unplanned’ thinks film is ‘going to change history’
SAN DIEGO — To say that actress Ashley Bratcher is enthusiastic about her latest film project is an understatement.
think it’s going to change history,” she said of the real-life story
upon which the film is based. “I really do. I think it’s just that
Bratcher portrays Abby Johnson, the former Planned
Parenthood clinic director who became an outspoken pro-life activist, in
The film, which opened in theaters nationwide March
29, is Johnson’s book of the same title and recounts how Johnson, once
honored by Planned Parenthood as its “Employee of the Year,” came
face-to-face with the reality of abortion and converted to the pro-life
On its opening weekend, the movie ranked fourth, and brought in $6.3 million at 1,059 venues, according to statistics from Box Office Mojo.
The movie’s Twitter account @UnplannedMovie also exploded, having
amassed more than 300,000 followers over the weekend, despite having its
account suspended and reinstated twice.
Bratcher knows the story’s transformative power because she has felt it herself.
she auditioned for the role without even knowing that Johnson was a
real person and not the fictional creation of a screenwriter, Bratcher
later went home and did some research online. She watched a video of
Johnson sharing her story and, she said, it “shook me to my core.”
had identified as pro-life, but admits that she had been
“middle-of-the-road” on the issue, having limited understanding of fetal
development, not knowing much about what an abortion procedure actually
involved, and being unwilling to tell another woman what to do with,
“so to speak, ‘her body.’”
But that video filled the gaps in her
understanding, she said, and “really convicted me in my spirit to say,
‘Wow, people don’t know this. … America needs to know the truth.’”
video footage of Johnson describing her experience in words can be that
powerful, a dramatization would be even more powerful.
movie, we allow people to see for the first time what they’ve never
seen before, and I think that is going to be … really compelling,”
Bratcher said during a March 8 telephone interview with The Southern
Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego.
In a separate
telephone interview a day earlier, Johnson recalled the life-changing
moment that is at the center of the new film.
Despite growing up
in a pro-life family, she began volunteering with Planned Parenthood in
the early 2000s. At first, though she disliked abortion, she felt that
women’s lives would be at risk if they were denied access to it. Over
her eight years with the organization, her views gradually became more
extreme, to the point where she was “very much pro-abortion” and saw the
procedure as “just another form of contraception.”
all changed in September 2009, Johnson said, when she was asked to
provide “an extra set of hands” during an ultrasound-guided abortion.
saw this 13-week-old baby appear to fight and struggle against the
abortion instruments, trying to move away, to find a safe place,” said
Johnson, who became Catholic in 2012, “and I knew then that there was
life in the womb, that there was humanity there, and that what I had
just witnessed was truly an injustice.”
The filmmakers’ effort to
share Johnson’s eye-opening experience with theatergoers met with an
R-rating from the Motion Picture Association of America for “some
Johnson sees “a political agenda at
play” in the rating decision, but also feels that the MPAA “stumbled
backwards into the truth” that abortion is inherently violent.
don’t think the irony is lost on anyone that a 15-year-old girl can’t go
watch this movie without her parents’ consent, but can go get an
abortion without her parents’ consent,” she said. “But I hope that it
won’t deter parents from taking their kids.”
A parent herself, Johnson gives her assurance that children “have seen much worse on cable TV than they will see in this film.”
also acknowledged the irony that young girls will not be admitted to
the film without a parent, but she said that “abortion is R-rated” and
“to make a movie about abortion and not have it be rated R would be a
Both the real-life Johnson and her onscreen
counterpart hope that the film’s audience will include both pro-life
theatergoers and those who support legal abortion. And they said it will
challenge both sides.
For those who are “pro-choice,” Johnson
said: “If you’re going to support something, you need to know what that
is and what it looks like, and that’s exactly what this film is going to
But, she added, “even within our own pro-life
movement, there’s room for conversion,” especially among those who are
“willing to check a box and say that they’re pro-life, but they’re not
actively engaged in the movement.”
In another interview with a
Catholic paper, The Compass of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin,
Johnson said she also hopes the film opens the hearts and minds of
Catholics in particular.
“Over 50 percent of women having
abortions are coming from our churches,” she said. “I wholeheartedly
believe that God is going to put the right people in that theater to see
this film. I’m excited to see what happens.”
Bratcher told The
Southern Cross she was grateful to pro-lifers who she knows will be
supporting the film, but she warned them to be ready.
“To them, I
say, ‘Thank you,’ but I also say, ‘Prepare,’ because we’ve had so many
people who are pro-life see this film and — holy smokes! — it just
lights them on fire because they’re seeing things that they didn’t even
expect to see as a pro-lifer.”
The film is “an activator,” she said, and will inspire its pro-life viewers “to go out and do more.”
Contributing to this story was Jennifer Brinker of the St. Louis Review and Amanda Lauer in Appleton, Wisconsin.