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Keep Showing That Truth

Although I was called away for a family funeral, several weeks ago, I was privileged to be asked to invite several of our “respect life” parishioners, to join me at a February 28th preview of the new movie: “UNPLANNED”.. And, all of them have related to me that this film moved them emotionally, far beyond their expectations, to become more fiercely dedicated to bringing an end to the horror of abortion. “Unplanned” premiers this coming Friday… March 29th at several theaters in the Jacksonville area. (See the list in today’s bulletin).

“This movie was produced specifically to Change Hearts and Minds,’ related  National Catholic Register columnist, Elizabeth Deffner, much of whose commentary I will reflect in this Corner. “I believe”, she commented, “we will reach a point when abortion truly is unthinkable in this country, but in the meantime, we have to keep showing that truth.” And… this movie, “Unplanned”, does exactly that… it unrelentingly exposes the truth about abortion.

This movie takes an inherently unsympathetic character, and makes the audience root for her, which is quite an accomplishment. It certainly helps when that character is Abby Johnson. This big-screen representation of Abby’s real-life, pro-life, activism is based on the book that she wrote, of the same name.

It related her own experiences; her buying-in to the lies of the abortion industry; her dedication to her job as Planned Parenthood’s youngest clinic director; and… Her suffering through two abortions. And then, she comes to an acute awareness of the inherent dignity of human life, and to a realization that she had actually been complicit in the deaths of more than 20,000 unborn babies. And this transformation results in her becoming one of the nation’s most outspoken pro-life advocates.

As a college student, Johnson had encountered Planned Parenthood at a career fair, and was drawn in by the organization’s claims to “empower women”. She decided to give volunteering there a try. And when she encountered the sidewalk counselors praying at the fence around the parking lot, their actions and attitude severely irritated her, and made her even more committed to Planned Parenthood.

And, so it goes. She moves up the ladder at the clinic, becomes a counselor, and then is promoted to director. Her parents are horrified by her employer… and… her boyfriend… later to become her husband… feels the same. But, if they push too hard, she becomes defensive. If they ask her simple questions or offer hard facts, she always has the Planned Parenthood “party-line” to fall back on. Even when her boss asks her into the POC room, she remains unfazed. “POC—you know what that stands for, right?” a colleague asked her before she entered the room. “Products of conception,” she answered promptly. “Nope…pieces of children!” the colleague responded with a grin.

Faced with an aborted baby, Johnson’s character is awed—but not dismayed. Not until she is asked to actually assist in an abortion procedure, does she come to realize the fact that, in the course of her work, she has participated in thousands and thousands of baby’s deaths.

Commenting on the film at a premier, Abby Johnson said: “One of the things I really love about the film is that it’s a really honest conversation about abortion in the first trimester.” In fact, her movie character has a very pat explanation for her pro-choice stance. “A fetus in the first trimester is not viable outside the womb, she told her family, but related that she is against abortion in the second or third trimester, because by then it’s really a baby. “There’s never been a film like this before,” said Johnson. “The pro-life movement has never been willing to push the boundaries. Now, I think they’re ready. I think people are seeking the truth about this issue.” Even though the February 28th film premiere was a long time coming, it has fortuitously arrived in the recent horrific wake of New York State’s aggressive late-term abortion legislation and all the ensuing conversations about babies that survive abortions and infanticide.

There is a faith element to this story — even though the producers agreed that they didn’t set out to make a “Christian movie”. Faith does play an important part in the film — and also in Abby Johnson’s conversion to a pro-life activist. You see her character squirm in church when her pastor reads from Psalm 139: “… you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” She wept as she asked her husband…How could God possibly forgive her for what she had done?             That remorse, however, should not be interpreted as condemnation… either of people who work in the abortion industry, or of women who have undergone abortion. “It’s not about condemnation,” the producer affirmed. “It’s about love, it’s about hope, it’s about forgiveness, it’s about redemption.”

When the film received an R rating, there was outrage from the pro-life community: an underage girl can actually obtain an abortion, but she can’t watch a movie about one? But the “Unplanned” team looks on the bright side. Since viewers under the age of 17 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, they hope that the R rating will spark family conversations about abortion, about Planned Parenthood’s true mission, and the dignity of human life. And, on the other hand, the Motion Picture Association is saying with its R rating that the film contains disturbing, violent images. In other words, it is saying abortion is a disturbing, violent act.

Across the nation, groups and organizations are already holding red carpet screenings of the film for their constituents. Not everyone viewing the movie enters the theater committed to unborn children’s right to live. Johnson related a story about a pediatrician who invited his entire staff to a screening of “Unplanned,” mistakenly believing that they all must certainly be against abortion. He did not know that one of his nurse practitioners was pro-choice until she exited the theater and said, “I will never support abortion again.” “I believe we will reach a point when abortion truly is unthinkable in this country,” said Abby Johnson. “In the meantime, we have to keep showing that truth.”

And I would add that all of us here at Mary Queen of Heaven need to keep on speaking this truth.

That Human Life is always viable…and always valuable, in the eyes of our Creator. Let us commit to taking an active role in bringing about a change of hearts and minds in all those whom we encounter on a regular basis. If you have not been to the movie, I urge you to plan now to attend. Perhaps we can arrange a day and time to attend as a parish once again.

Yours for the protection of all human life,