The important groundbreaking film Unplanned is in theaters March 29th. The film chronicles the true story of Abby Johnson who was the youngest clinical manager of Planned Parenthood and is now one of the most important pro-life voices of our time. The film has been deemed R-rated not because of sexual content or language, but because it is real about abortion and what really happens. Has the movie industry agreed that abortion is indeed a violent murder?
Abby Johnson was at the top of her career, even earning the title of Employee of the Year during her eight years working with Planned Parenthood. Being a huge supporter of women in need, Abby poured her heart into this cause until one day she saw something at work that forever changed her and altered her path.
Abby is now one of the most prolific speakers for life in the United States – and is still fighting for the rights and protections women need. In what she calls a “new kind of feminism” Abby shows what’s true: that while motherhood can be scary and a sincere challenge, it is also one of the most empowering roles a woman can experience. Women need to know that there is real help for them if they’re facing a crisis and that a baby won’t ruin their lives. We are strong women and we can do the hard things.
Unplanned enlightens us to what abortion, including the abortion pill, really are. Sometimes we think we know, but we don’t always. And if you’re going to chose to terminate your pregnancy, you should have full knowledge of the procedure – both what will happen during and after. This film is pro-woman all the way. It’s not about shame or judgement. It’s not about dealing with how a woman came to be in a crisis pregnancy situation. It’s about what you do once you discover your pregnancy and the many resources that can truly offer you help and support going forward.
Actress Ashley Bratcher (War Room, Princess Cut 1 & 2, 90 Minutes in Heaven) portrays Abby in the upcoming, highly-anticipated film Unplanned, in theaters March 29th. Ashley also faced an unexpected pregnancy as a very young woman but chose to keep her son. I had the opportunity to sit down with Ashley to talk about this important, informative film. As you will see, so many things were woven together, even long ago, to make this true story and the making of this film, extraordinary.
No matter your stance on the subject, an open mind is necessary to view this film and see someone who has an intimate view of each side of this issue and has a unique story to share. You will be inspired by Ashley’s story and her depiction of Abby’s story.
No matter your stance on the subject, an open mind is necessary to view this film and see someone who has an intimate view of each side of this issue and has a unique story to share. You will be inspired by Ashley’s story and her depiction of Abby’s story. Editor At Large Melanie S. Pickett reports.
SCH: Could you give our readers an overall premise of the film?
AB: ‘Unplanned’ is the true-life story of Abby Johnson. Abby was a former Planned Parenthood clinic director. She worked for Planned Parenthood for eight years. She held herself accountable for about 22,000 abortions and it was in her eighth year working there that she assisted on an ultrasound abortion where she saw something that changed her life forever. At that time, she turned to the pro-life organization that had been silently protesting at her clinic, and they helped her. She eventually became pro-life from that point on and is now one of the greatest pro-life advocates of our time.
SCH: What helped you decide to accept this potentially controversial role?
AB: I didn’t really have something initially that prompted me. To be completely honest, when I first heard about the audition, I passed on it. The reason is I didn’t find out about it a traditional way. I had an Instagram follower, someone that I didn’t know personally, reach out to me and say, “Hey, you should audition for this movie. I just saw that it’s coming out and you’d be great in the lead role.” This was a person who prayed for me. Some of my followers kind of connect in that way and we don’t know each other, but I thought this woman was crazy; I didn’t know her from Adam.
Initially I blew it off but then two weeks later, she reached out to me again and asked me if I’d auditioned yet and that she really believed I should play this role. I thought ‘Okay.’ I don’t usually do stuff unless it goes through my agent, but I was willing to take a look at the script if she had one of the producers send me an email. One of the producers sent me an email and I read some of the audition pieces, and I became super interested. I didn’t know who Abby was. I just knew that there was this person who had worked for Planned Parenthood and at that point in the script, I didn’t know if she became pro-life.
I did the audition and when I got done, that was when it hit me, and I think the Holy Spirit convicted me, and I felt it so strongly to learn more about Abby. When I did hear her testimony, I could not stop crying and it just broke my heart. It just would not leave me and I knew I had to be the person to tell this story and I told everyone from that point forward, it had to be me.
SCH: Have there been any repercussions from taking this brave role?
AB: Everyone keeps saying it’s such a brave thing to do, but really I just said, “Yes” to God because I knew in my heart where I stand. I didn’t really know much about the pro-life movement before this. I just knew where I stood and how I felt about it. Regardless of what people told me up front, I have not seen that to date in my career. I truly believe that where God’s will takes you His providence will cover. I don’t expect some horrible thing will happen to my career because I’m trusting God. This is my gift to Him and my career is completely in His hands. What He does with it is completely divine. I do the work and I submit it to Him and pray for His providence and protection. More than anything, which is surprising to me, is that I have had so many people reach out to me and say I’m really glad you’re doing this film. I have not had a single person attack me in any way for doing it, and I have plenty of friends who are pro-choice who are all different ranges on the political and religious spectrum. All of them have been supportive.
SCH: How did you come to have a pro-life stance yourself?
AB: I wasn’t really raised to be pro-life. My grandparents were the spiritual leaders of my family and that’s where I developed my faith, although it wasn’t until later as an adult that I accepted Christ and gave my life to Him. I actually had an unplanned pregnancy myself. My son was born when I was 22. He was not expected at all. As soon as I got pregnant with him, my fiancé at the time – my husband now – abortion was never an option for us. We just knew immediately this is a tiny human we created and a life inside of me. For me, it was always fairly black and white. There were shades of gray initially for me when I became pro-life, like in certain circumstances I thought it was okay. But now that I have this insight and have seen firsthand what it’s like and have been behind the scenes, it’s become black and white for me. I can no longer say that there are shades of gray involved. I believe that there is a life and by having an abortion, we’re terminating that life. Because of this film specifically, my stance has become stronger with knowledge. Knowledge is power and my eyes have been opened by doing this film.
SCH: How have you best learned about Abby so you could accurately portray her in Unplanned?
AB: Abby currently lives in Texas and she is a very active pro-life voice in our country today. She runs her own nonprofit organization called And Then There Were None that helps get abortion workers out of the industry, because it’s her belief that you start with abortion workers and if you can get them out of the industry, then we can help end abortion that way. Being ministered to as an abortion worker, that’s where her heart is. She spoke at the March for Life 2019.
When I took on the role, I didn’t know who Abby was and I had a very short time to prepare. I got a phone call on Thursday morning and they asked me to get on the plane four hours later to go to Oklahoma to film for seven weeks. I had only read the script not even 24 hours earlier so I asked the producers for Abby’s phone number so I could talk to her and learn everything I could about her. I listened to her audible book, which the movie is based on. I watched every You Tube clip I could find, and asked her a million questions. We still communicate to this day.
SCH: Did anything happen during the process of this film that you felt was completely a God thing?
AB: There were so many things, but the most obvious was that, as I mentioned, I found out I booked the role Thursday morning. This all happened really fast and is unusual in the film industry. It’s a huge responsibility to play a real person and not only that, this was a very challenging role. I arrived in OK the same day to stay for seven weeks. In the meetings, they decided I should have red hair and they made an appointment for me to have my hair dyed red.
Because I have such dark hair, it was quite a process. Saturday morning I was sitting in the salon for that 6-hour process. During that time, my mom called me and because everything had happened so fast, I hadn’t had time to tell everyone where I was going. I told her where I was and what I was doing, and was nervous to share because when I was younger, she had shared with me that she’d had an abortion when she was 16. She had said that when she got pregnant with me, she knew she could never do that again. But because of the content of the film, I didn’t want her to feel judged or be hurt by the fact that I was doing it. I was very careful in how I described it, but I wanted her to know who Abby is and why I’m doing the film.
When I did explain it to her, she completely broke down sobbing. I knew immediately that something more was wrong. She said, “Ashley, I need to tell you something I’ve never told you before. When I got pregnant with you, I went to the abortion clinic. I was on the table and was being examined by the nurse who happened to be very pregnant. They were preparing to perform the procedure and something came over me and I just could not do it. I got up and left. I was on the table and intended to abort you and you never knew.”
In that moment, it blew me away. I’d love someone to calculate the scientific odds of something like that happening. It only makes sense that God had a plan. Now, I was crying in the salon and told her I needed time to process and would call her back. I called my dad later that night. My parents are divorced and I wanted to confirm the story with him because they were both really young; she was 18 and he was 19. He confirmed everything she said was true and they couldn’t afford the abortion. He had pawned a family heirloom and it happened to be my great uncle’s shotgun. It also blows my mind that the price of a human life is that of a pawned shotgun.
My dad has also struggled with his faith throughout the years and we’re still healing in our relationship since my childhood was also a struggle. This healing process that has come about through this film, I think is a really beautiful thing. He said, “Ashley, you being there and telling this story, never knowing that we intended to abort you just proves to me that God is so real and He had a purpose for your life.” It was a very profound moment in our relationship. I just wanted to stop having these family secrets and just love and forgive each other where we are. Thank God my mom got up and walked out. The money they got from the shotgun, she used for maternity clothes and a crib.
SCH: The news reported that Mike Lindell of My Pillow donated $1 million to this movie. How did that impact the film?
AB: This is an even crazier story than the news reports because I have insider information about that went down. Chuck and Cary, the directors of the film, have shared this. At the very last minute when we were set to start filming, they had an investor who just wasn’t putting in the money. When you’re investing in a film, everyone wants to be first or they want to be last – nobody wants to be the middle person who puts in the money in the middle. Nevertheless, they were a million dollars short and didn’t know what to do. We were going to have to shut down. We were praying and giving this film to the Lord.
They got a phone call from this millionaire in a jet in the sky who says, “Hey, give me your routing number” and Cary was like, “That’s a really strange question. Why?” They guy on the line says, “I want to wire you a million dollars and invest in your movie. The Lord’s told me like three times over to send you the money.” Cary said we didn’t have a contract in place and the guy on the plane who happens to be Mike says, “I don’t care about the contract. My bank closes in five minutes, give me your routing number so I can wire the money to you.” Mike was the guy on the plane who put in a million dollars at the last minute, and it was all a complete act of faith.
It was hilarious how it happened because Mike is just that kind of guy. Meeting him on set, he’s such a charismatic, generous guy. He actually brought My Pillows for every single person on the set that day. He took the time to speak to all the extras and was adamant he drive the bulldozer in the scene, and was just fun to be around.
SCH: How would you guide an abortion-minded woman now having been through this process of the working on the film and learning what you now know?
AB: I have actually had a couple of girls call me throughout the years and ask for my help because they know I had my son at such a young age, and they just didn’t know what to do. One did end up having an abortion and the others have not. The first thing I ask them is “You know that I love you, right?” If you know that I love you then you know everything I’m about to say to you is coming from a place of love because I want nothing but the best for you. I want you to know that a baby is not going to flip your world upside down. That’s what society wants you to think. Society wants you to think that a baby is the end of the world.
If you’re a young woman who’s trying to finish school or get started in her career, society wants you to think it’s going to end your life and you’re never going to have the life that you want. In reality, that’s just not the case. You have the opportunity to give life to someone else who’s waiting and wanting a baby. You have the opportunity to give them a baby and it’s one of the most selfless things to do, to consider adoption.
Another thing I talk to them about is do you know when the baby’s heart starts beating? Have you had an ultrasound yet? Do you think you could wait until you have an ultrasound and listen and see, and then decide? I think sometimes it’s such a blind decision that women just don’t know what is in their own body because it’s not something that the abortion industry wants them to know. When you go in to get counseled for an abortion, they don’t say “Hey, look at your baby.” That’s just not the case. Planned Parenthood actually does not show women the ultrasound. That’s part of their practice not showing women the ultrasound before they have the abortion. They don’t show them the ultrasound, period.
Again, for me it’s more counseling women from a place of love to say that I would never give you any advice that I think would hurt you, and also, let’s make an informed decision. Abortion is not your only option and I will be here for you. When I say that, I mean it and I will be there for them every step of the way. I think we need more of that type of ministry in the church, a women’s ministry to say they’re here for women in a crisis pregnancy without judgement. The mothers are the ones feeling alone who need the support. It starts with ministering to the mother. That’s how we begin the discussion. I don’t think for one second that the pro-life agenda has nothing to do with caring for the mother, that’s just something they like to twist and make for an argument.
SCH: What is the overall message you’d like viewers to take away from this film?
AB: Unplanned is a story of hope and redemption. It is not an attack movie or a judgmental movie. It is a story of hope, redemption, and recovery. It is a story of the overwhelming love of our Father that you can never go too far that God doesn’t love you. Of course, the message is also that abortion is not your only option, that there is a life growing inside of you and there are people here to help you and make the best decision for you and your baby. It’s ultimately a story of love and redemption, and the fact that it’s on the topic of abortion is something that society needs to hear. I hope that it opens the eyes of the blind. For it to be a true-life story, I hope that people will see this is something that someone actually went through and give it credibility.
SCH: Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
AB: I am actually wrapping Princess Cut 2. This part two is going to have a lot of twists and turns you won’t expect. It’s a beautiful, fun movie that will surprise you. Around Easter, I have another movie A Walk with Grace. I play a small-town attorney who helps to save the factory farm. It’s a really cute movie. Stephen Baldwin is in it. David Lee Smith who had a role in Fight Club is in it. Jason Landon who was in Dazed and Confused. It’s a really fun cast centered around an Easter theme and a small town.
Unplanned is in theaters now. Hugely popular Dove Award winning contemporary Christian singer Matthew West has written and performs the theme song for Unplanned titled the same.
Unplanned opened in theaters around the nation on March 29th. See it now!