REVIEW: “Unplanned” is a rated R film you should see

Abby is an outgoing and friendly college student who is still uncertain what she believes about life — literally and figuratively.

Thus, when a Planned Parenthood worker at a university event asks if she’s interested in volunteering at the clinic, Abby barely hesitates. Yes, her parents won’t approve, but Abby wants to help women.

Her task: escort the patients from the parking lot to the front doors, shielding them from the pro-life protesters.

Abby — it turns out — enjoys it. She’s making a difference. She’s protecting women. At least, that’s what she tells herself.

Pretty soon, Abby’s role transitions from volunteer to paid employee. And eventually, she becomes clinic director.

Her pro-life Christian parents hate her job, but she doesn’t care. Besides, there are religious people in the pro-choice community, too.    

“I don’t care what anyone says,” a co-worker says. “I am doing God’s work here.”

But then Abby is asked to help with an abortion. And then she witnesses, first-hand, the moral horrors it entails. And then she begins having doubts about her beliefs on abortion.

The film Unplanned (R) opens in theaters March 29, telling the unlikely true story of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director who quit her job to become a pro-life advocate.

It stars Ashley Bratcher (90 Minutes In Heaven) as Abby; Jared Lotz as Shawn, a pro-life worker with 40 Days for Life; and Emma Elle Roberts (I’m Not Ashamed) as Marilisa, another worker with 40 Days for Life.

The film begins with the pivotal abortion scene but then jumps back eight years to her college days, showing how she climbed the ranks to become clinic director.

Its filmmakers were aiming for a PG-13 rating but got stuck with an R — an undeserved rating that can only be described as one of the worst decisions in the history of the ratings board. The R is for “some disturbing/bloody images.” Yet broadcast television regularly exceeds the disturbing and bloody content of Unplanned — as does every PG-13 superhero film in the last decade. (More on that in a moment.)

Despite the rating, Unplanned is appropriate for teens and mature tweens.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)


Moderate. The film deals with the subject of abortion, but it never shows an abortion from the perspective of the doctor, even though we are in the room. We see an abortion take place on a computer screen (a sonogram), as the small baby is in the picture one instance and gone the next. We see a clothed woman sitting on a toilet, blood dripping off the seat. She steps in the shower (still clothed) with blood dripping down her leg. She picks up a bloody blob off the floor and puts in in the toilet (presumably it was the small baby). In another scene, a father pressures a teen girl to have an abortion; there are complications in the room but she survives. Still another scene shows pieces of an aborted baby on a table. All total, these scenes last perhaps five to 10 minutes. Most of the movie focuses on Abby’s journey.


Minimal. Two people kiss.

Coarse Language

Minimal. H-ll (2), d–nit (2), a– (1).

Other Positive Elements

The film contrasts the peaceful, prayer-filled protests of 40 Days for Purpose (Shawn and Marilisa) with that of protesters who are screaming unkind words toward the women. It’s obvious which strategy works best.

Abby’s pro-life parents accept and love her unconditionally, even if they strongly disagree with her job.  

Life Lessons

Unplanned gives us lessons on patience and prayer (Shawn and Marilisa, Abby’s parents), blindness to sin (Abby), and unconditional love (Abby’s parents and husband).


There have been more than 60 million abortions since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized the procedure nationwide. And despite the best efforts of pro-lifers, roughly half the country still considers itself pro-life. Why?

Perhaps Americans are just like Abby Johnson once was. Maybe they are pro-choice because they never have to think about abortion. They never have to watch an abortion. They never have to consider the ramifications of their stance. It takes place in a private clinic, in a private room, behind closed doors.

This doesn’t mean it’s necessary to watch an abortion to transition from pro-choice to pro-life. But it does mean that when we consider what abortion is and what it involves, we are faced with a moral choice that many people would rather avoid.

What Works

The interaction between Abby and the pro-lifers. The screenplay and the film’s structure. It makes for a gripping story. The movie’s final 30 minutes is emotion-laden and well done. It ends on a high note.

What Doesn’t

One or two scenes are over the top and could be viewed as propaganda by the pro-choice community.

Discussion Questions

  1. What does the Bible say about the unborn? (See Psalm 139, Jeremiah 1:5.)
  2. What did the first Christians think about abortion? (Google the “Didache and abortion.”)
  3. What led Abby to change her mind about abortion? Do you think there are other people like Abby in our society?
  4. Did the film change how you view abortion and Planned Parenthood? Explain.

Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Rated R for some disturbing/bloody images.

TEXAN Correspondent
Michael Foust
Most Read

What does a special-needs family experience when they visit your church?

Editor’s note: The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has designated July 14 as Disability Ministry Sunday. We walked up to the registration area for the children’s classes one Sunday at the church we were visiting in …

Stay informed on the news that matters most.

Stay connected to quality news affecting the lives of southern baptists in Texas and worldwide. Get Texan news delivered straight to your home and digital device.