Recently I viewed the movie, “Unplanned,” which tells the extremely powerful story of Abby Johnson and her journey from an entry-level employee with Planned Parenthood to the director of the clinic where she had her own personal experience of abortion earlier. Abby recounts her thinking, coping mechanisms and struggles to be set free from the clutches of this industry. Through accompaniment by Shawn Carney, the founder of 40 Days for Life, his wife and the group that prayed for her without judgment, Abby was able to experience the mercy of God and helped to transition out of the snares of the abortion industry.
Abby is one courageous woman. She is taking the remorse for her involvement in this industry and turning it into helping people see this for what it really is. Most people do not want to end their baby’s life but are caught in the vortex of pressure, real and feared, and then walked through this decision through the misuse of compassionate language to give cover to their activities. The message of the movie is not to judge the women who find themselves in this situation, but to love them enough to show them the truth about abortion.
The relentless push to sanction abortion by state and national leaders, funded by very large donors who make their donations in the name of women’s rights, completely ignores the loss of life of the most voiceless and defenseless. Now as we see in New York, some are trying to justify abortion through all stages of the pregnancy and even questioning whether babies born alive during abortion deserve to receive proper medical care.
In doing so, abortion advocates not only ignore the rights of the baby in the womb, they back women into a corner, leading them to believe that the only way they can maintain their own freedom is by taking away the life of their child. You see, babies are not the only victims of the abortion industry. This industry victimizes the mothers, the fathers, the siblings, the grandparents and even the workers themselves. As a tool of the culture of death, abortion infects our entire society.
This is why the Catholic Church has remained firm in its commitment to life in all its stages. We must commit ourselves to praying for all people who are affected by abortion, for the babies, their mothers, the family members and even the providers. We must commit ourselves to walking with those who have been affected by abortion, sharing with them the mercy and healing that our loving Father offers to each of us.
In particular, we must accompany women who have lived through the trauma of abortion. The women I have spoken to who have had abortions have expressed regret about their decision and continue to feel the effects of it. We must walk them into the ocean of God’s mercy and help them to do their part in helping others not to go down this road. Through the Project Rachel ministry in Catholic Charities, we have professionals who are able to walk with you through this journey.
I would encourage parents and adults to see this movie. Viewers should be warned that there are graphic scenes in the film, but these scenes make clear what abortion is in a very striking way. Having said that, people who see “Unplanned” should be prepared to have strong reactions to the film, especially if you or someone close to you has been affected by abortion. Through our ministries in the diocese, we have resources available to help people, whether you are in need of healing or whether you are feeling inspired to learn more and take action on this issue. (See chart with diocesan resources below.)
I also think that young women and men should be somehow introduced to this film, accompanied by their parents, to help them understand the truths about abortion and the potential consequences of premarital sex. While the movie is rated “R,” meaning children under 17 must be accompanied by an adult, I think parents should prayerfully consider showing the film to their teenage children, who are old enough to be faced with the decision to have an abortion themselves.
In closing, I pray that this film may be a tool to help people come to understand the truth about abortion. I thank Abby Johnson for her courage and pray that God would bless and protect her! May all of us today seek new ways to build a culture of life!
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter at @BpDavidRicken.