‘Unplanned’ – It’s Not Pro-Life, it is Anti-Woman

It is only with morbid curiosity and the fact it was available to view for free on Tubi that I found myself watching the 2019 anti-abortion drama “Unplanned.” Now those who know me know I am forever pro-choice, am very angry at the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, and I am a staunch supporter of Planned Parenthood, so clearly this film was not made for someone like me. Still, I dared myself to sit through this motion picture to see if I can provide any sort of objective criticism on it. So, whatever side of this issue you are on, pray for me.

“Unplanned” is based on the memoir by Abby Johnson who worked for years at a Planned Parenthood clinic before eventually becoming a staunch anti-abortion activist. Abby is played by Ashley Bratcher, and the film opens up on her being asked to assist in an ultrasound-guided suction aspiration abortion for a patient who is 13 weeks pregnant. As she assists, she watches the monitor and sees the fetus trying to fight back against the doctor’s attempts to remove it. So overwhelmed by what she sees, she goes straight to bathroom and cries her eyes out. From there, the film flashes back to eight years earlier when Abby first joined Planned Parenthood and of her experiences with both management and the anti-abortion protesters she later befriends.

Okay, let me start with what I like about “Unplanned,” and that is Ashley Bratcher’s performance. Regardless of how you feel about the subject matter, she does give a strong and convincingly emotional performance as she makes Abby’s inner conflicts quite palpable. In the process, she gives us one of the best performances you could ever hope to find in a Pure Flix production. And let’s face it, their films are not known for having Oscar caliber performances.

Also, the filmmakers do feature a scene which, ever so briefly, serves to separate certain pro-lifers from others. One ani-abortionist screams at a woman entering the clinic for not keeping her legs crossed, but others are not quick to engage such unnecessarily harsh language.

And I do have to say that “Unplanned” does end with one of the biggest laughs I have had at the movies recently as the filmmakers give us an end card stating that Planned Parenthood had no involvement or participation in this film’s production. Wow! Really?! You think?!

Well, I have clearly reached the tipping point here, haven’t I? While everyone is entitled to their opinions and beliefs to where all need to be heard, none of this changes the fact that “Unplanned” is shamelessly manipulative, full of propaganda and outright lies, and its presentation of Planned Parenthood as being like the evil Empire from “Star Wars” is defamatory and borderline criminal. Clearly the filmmakers were not the least bit interested in being unbiased, and I am obligated to hold them accountable for the bullshit parade they have given us here.

Let us start with the opening ultrasound abortion scene. The special effects are truly awful as no fetus recoils like that at 13 weeks, and this is a scientific fact. If a fetus could recoil in such a way, I have no doubt the filmmakers would have used real ultrasound footage to bolster their case. Also, we never do learn exactly why this patient is getting this specific kind of abortion. Was she raped? Is her overall health in danger? Was there a strong chance of her dying if she didn’t get this abortion? Well, no one here seems interested in such questions.

As for the scenes of Abby’s abortions, particularly her second one, writers and directors Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman are completely shameless in making it look both bloody as hell and life-threatening. With all the blood on display, it’s no wonder this is the first Pure Flix production to earn an R rating. The truth is, abortions are actually safer than childbirth, which itself can be very dangerous. But yeah, there are people who hate science for all the wrong reasons and are determined to remain willfully ignorant.

I also found its portrayal of Planned Parenthood as nothing more than a corporate monolith interested in profiting from abortion not just repellent, but completely and inescapably reprehensible. Much of this is corrupted view of the non-profit organization illustrated through the character of Cheryl, director of the clinic Abby works at. Played by Robia Scott, Cheryl comes as a smug as hell individual who is far too cold hearted to be the least bit believable as a fighter for abortion rights. For the filmmakers, Cheryl is essentially a Darth Vader-like character who spouts a lot of crap about how abortions are Planned Parenthood’s cash cow, and that the organization should be run no differently than a fast-food restaurant. Seriously, I kept waiting for her to tell Abby, “I find your lack of abortions at this clinic disturbing.”

And, like many faith-based features, “Unplanned” suffers from a low budget, cheap cinematography, a music score designed to assault your emotions as opposed to simply manipulating them and, as expected, a lot of bad acting. While Bratcher shines, everyone else emotes or acts as if they are reading off of cue cards which are just a few feet away. Granted, they are reduced to spouting many ridiculous and dangerous talking points, particularly towards the movie’s conclusion, but they are in serious need of acting lessons more than anything else. As for Brooks Ryan who plays Abby’s second husband, Doug, he acts as though he barely has a pulse. In the scene where she gives birth to their daughter, he is far too serene and calm to be the least bit believable as an expectant father, and it got to where I wanted Abby to, as Robin Williams once said, grab his scrotum and pull it up over his head.

But what enraged me the most about “Unplanned” is how the filmmakers deny Abby not just her personhood, but her womanhood more than anything else. While she has a loving husband and parents, they cannot help but look down on her as they are defiantly pro-life while she spends most of this movie being pro-choice. When Abby eventually does her 180 on abortion, they come to embrace her fully in a way that they always should have regardless of their differences. Plus, there is a scene in which Doug forgives Abby for her past abortions, and it feels like he is saying to her, “It’s okay. Because you are pro-life now, I can truly see you as a woman now.”

That’s right folks, “Unplanned” is not as pro-life as it is anti-woman. The implications of this are so deep that I have a feeling the filmmakers may not even realize this. The women here are viewed as being selfish and thoughtless for taking on jobs instead of being stay at home mothers. The men, however, are portrayed as such angelic creatures who look to save these women from their own ghastly impulses. Look, not everyone needs to be saved, and if history has taught me anything, it is that women have never been the gentler or weaker sex, ever. Seriously, this is as chauvinistic and misogynistic as any film I have seen in recent years, and there is no excuse for that.

Oh, and Mike Lindell, the My Pillow guy and one of “Unplanned’s” executive producers, has a cameo as a tractor driver who gleefully pulls down a Planned Parenthood sign after the clinic is shut down. But looking deep into his eyes, Lindell looks more like he is vicariously destroying a sign of a local chapter of the Better Business Bureau, and we know how the Better Business Bureau feels about him.

Well, have I given you all an objective review of “Unplanned?” I want to say yes, but with movies like these, is almost impossible not take a side, and this one will simply reinforce those on both aisles of the abortion debate.

Look, maybe the world would be a better place with no abortions, and it should be clear that no one really wants to get one. There has to be a movie out there somewhere in which people on both sides of the abortion debate can find some common ground, and it would be great to find any common ground in such divisive times. “Unplanned” is not that movie, and it was never designed to be as it was made by people who choose to be willfully ignorant, and those people end up making life more difficult for everyone.

To be completely honest with you, “Unplanned” proves to be one of the most infuriating and intellectually insulting motion pictures ever made by human beings. Then again, it was made by the same people who gave us “God’s Not Dead.”

* out of * * * *

‘The Trump Prohecy’ – Yes, it is Real, and it Looks Awful

The Trump Prophecy poster

I learned of this movie’s existence through an article on the Birth Movies Death website, and its headline declared its trailer to be “one of the worst things we’ve ever seen.” Just when I thought I wouldn’t see a worse movie in 2018 than “Death of a Nation,” this one just might beat it for that unenviable title. But after watching this trailer, I’m not really eager to see it after sitting through Dinesh D’Souza’s latest historical garbage-fest.

The Trump Prophecy” is a Christian drama which tells the story of fireman Mark Taylor who believes, in April 2011, God told him Donald Trump would one day be elected President of the United States. Well, this makes sense, right? Because we know God talks to the sanest people on planet Earth all the time, right? And why wouldn’t God want Trump move into the White House? Could there be another white man who can personify what a true Christian is other than the host of “The Apprentice?”

Yes, I’m being sarcastic, but you can tell. “The Trump Prophecy” looks to defy all reasonable logic to make its audience believe Trump was anointed by God to become President of the United States. The trailer starts off with us being introduced to Mark Taylor (Chris Nelson) who talks about having seen everything as a fireman. But then we see him suffering through a nightmare, and the acting on display is as bad as any in “Death of a Nation.” Remember the beginning where Eva Braun dies a most unintentionally hilarious death? Mark’s bad dream threatens to be even worse.

From there, we people praying endlessly for what one character calls “the Commander-in-Chief prophecy.” Basically, Mark thinks his dreams are God’s way of talking to him. We are then shown headlines which say how Trump has no chance of winning the election, but Mark is intent on leading others in prayer as he looks to make America great again in a way which defies logic. There’s even a bible verse mentioned which I guess is used to justify this movie’s title. The description of this movie is hilarious enough, but watching its trailer has my eyes rolling all the way in the back of my head.

Look, many have a strong bias against faith-based movies like “God’s Not Dead” as they are made with an agenda in mind which results in a product which is an unforgivable insult to our collective intelligence. I try to keep an open mind to them as not all of them are out to do this, but “The Trump Prophecy” clearly is as there still many supporters who are determined to support Trump in spite of all the damage he has done so far. By now, it should be clear to the majority of Americans, let alone people around the world, that Trump is anything but a true Christian. He cheated on his wife with Stormy Daniels, his administration is full of corrupt people, several of who have since been indicted, and he clearly holds his own self-interests above all others.

“The Trump Prophecy,” like many faith-based movies, was made on a very low budget ($2 million to be exact) and in cooperation with the film department at Liberty University, the evangelical Christian school founded by the late Jerry Falwell. It is also directed by the head of that school’s film department head, Stephan Schultze. Only evangelical Christians would dare make a movie like this as they remain convinced beyond a doubt that Trump deserves to be President above all others, including those who are actual politicians.

Yes, I am tempted to see it in the same way I rush out to see Dinesh D’Souza’s movies, so I can analyze everything wrong with them. But this time I think I will pass as there are many others worth my time as Oscar season is heating up. Learning of “The Trump Prophecy” and watching its trailer simply serves as a reminder of how people willfully blind themselves to horrible truths, and of why Christianity and evangelical Christianity need to be seen as two very separate things.

Right now, I keep thinking of John Carpenter’s “Pro-Life,” the “Halloween” director’s second episode for the Showtime series “Masters of Horror.” That episode featured a religious fanatic played by Ron Perlman who was determined to rescue his daughter from an abortion clinic, especially after he hears a voice telling him to save her baby. But in the end, the voice he hears is revealed to be a demon who looks to unleash literal hell on earth. Perhaps it is unfair to compare Mark Taylor to Ron Perlman’s character as I am sure he is a decent man looking to lead a peaceful life, but hey, both said God talked to them.

Fathom Events will be screening “The Trump Prophecy” two days only, October 2 and 4, 2018, in theaters throughout the United States. While watching the trailer, which is included below, you may hear a voice talking to you. If this voice is telling you “save your money,” you are not insane.

 

Abortion: Stories Women Tell

Abortion Stories Women Tell poster

Was there ever a time when abortion didn’t seem like such a controversial issue? Well, if there was, that was certainly a long, long, long time ago. Even with the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, which gave every woman in the United States the right to an abortion, many have still been doing their best to get it overturned. Never mind that the Supreme Court has the final say on issues like this, never mind that Roe v. Wade was passed to stop women dying from abortions, and never mind that abortions make up a very tiny percentage of the work Planned Parenthood does; people are still swayed by their emotions more than they are by facts, and many have to be reminded of the importance of the separation between church and state.

The HBO documentary “Abortion: Stories Women Tell” is not out to take sides on this contentious debate. Instead, it gives women the opportunity to talk about their experiences with both pregnancy and abortion and to tell their own stories without any filters. Some men are heard on this too, but the focus is on women on both sides of the fence as they are the ones who have to deal not just with their decisions, but also the aftermath they are unwillingly exposed to.

The documentary starts off with a pro-life rally in Missouri where supporters chant “all in Christ,” and an elected representative tells them they are making progress in closing clinics in the state as they now “have the ability to look inside the womb.” But the focus then quickly shifts to a title card which states how since 2011, more than half of the United States have significantly restricted access to abortions, and those restrictions have increased from year to year. Abortion opponents may not be able to overturn Roe v. Wade, but they have managed to find ways around it.

Missouri at this time has only one abortion clinic which means the women who live there are more likely to drive many miles across the state border into Illinois to seek help. The documentary looks at the daily happenings at the Hope Clinic in Granite City, Illinois where employees do their best to help women in need of health care even while they are constantly harassed by protestors. None of them have any shame over the work they do, and that’s even if some consider themselves the black sheep of their family as a result.

The stories we hear cover different parts of the spectrum regarding the abortion debate. There’s Amie, a 30-year-old single mom who works 70 to 90 hours a week to make ends meet and cannot afford to have another baby right now. We get to meet Sarah who has discovered her baby will have lungs missing and won’t survive long after birth. Then there’s Kathy whose house is filled with various religious objects, and she is setting up a peaceful pro-life march to get what she sees as God’s message across to others. And there’s no forgetting Alexis who is 17 years old and pregnant, whose mother died when she was just 8 and who gets picked on at school because of her condition. It’s painful to see how isolated all these women are from the rest of society as the stigma of abortion is still all too harsh. Granted, Kathy might not seem as isolated, but there is a strong sense of loneliness about her as she pursues her quest to end abortions.

Director Tracy Droz Tragos, herself a Missouri resident, presents all these women’s stories without any judgment. She has given them a forum to speak their minds, and they all need to be heard regardless of how we feel about this infinitely taboo subject. There’s no narration to be found here as Tragos is not looking to steer the conversation one way or another, and this is even though the number of pro-lifers interview here pales in comparison to the pro-choice advocates. But for what it’s worth, the pro-life women interviewed here come across as very nice and full of much love, and this is in sharp contrast to those protestors (mostly men) who stand outside the clinic berating anybody and everybody who enters it.

But for me, the most important takeaway from “Abortion: Stories Women Tell” is that none of the women featured here take the issue of abortion lightly. Why would they? Many people who oppose abortion treat those who have had one with such disgusting disdain as if to say they never bothered to put much thought into what they were doing. But as Representative Jackie Speier said in a session of congress, the thought that anyone enters into such a decision with a cavalier attitude is just “preposterous.”

It’s impossible not to be emotionally affected by what these women go through. Plus, one cannot but be infuriated at those protestors who hold up signs featuring what looks like aborted fetuses which are disgusting and unforgivably cruel as they do nothing more than try to manipulate the actions of people they have no interest in knowing personally. Tragos briefly gets to interview one of the most outspoken pro-lifers who follows a clinic escort all the way to her car, begging her to repent. He talks about a law in California which punishes someone with not one, but two murders when they kill a pregnant woman. Whoever this person is, he may need to look at the California law book more closely.

With the United States currently entering the most contentious of Presidential elections, the future of Roe v. Wade is in more danger than ever. But watching “Abortion: Stories Women Tell” is a stark reminder of how women are still treated like a minority even though they make up more than fifty percent of the world’s population. This documentary will bring about a fury of emotions for everyone who watches it, but the one thing to keep in mind is all the women featured here are no different from one another. They believe in the same things and have more in common than they bother to realize.

I also have to quote Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times here as he made an excellent point in his review I wish I had made myself:

“The key to understanding why ‘Abortion: Stories Women Tell’ is a quietly powerful documentary is not the first word in the title, but the final three.”

* * * * out of * * * *

Copyright Ben Kenber 2016.