Movie on Pro-Life Catholic Activist Gets Unexpected R-Rating
The directors of Unplanned claim that the rating given to their story of Abby Johnson’s journey from Planned Parenthood manager to pro-lifer, is more about the politics of abortion.
WASHINGTON — The movie Unplanned, which tells the true story of former Planned Parenthood business director Abby Johnson’s conversion into a pro-life Catholic activist, has been given an R rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, a decision the directors fear could have been motivated by the pro-life message of the film.
The rating was announced Friday.
“We had hoped that [the rating] would be different, but due to the political climate, and the fact that we’re in Hollywood, it doesn’t surprise us,” co-director Chuck Konzelman told CNA.
Co-director Cary Solomon agreed, adding, “We’ve made a pro-life film in a pro-choice town. We’re very aware of that.”
By giving the film an R-rating, Konzelman said that he believes the MPAA is inadvertently supporting the belief that “anything that has to do with abortion is an act of extreme violence.”
“Ironically, that’s [also] our viewpoint,” he said.
In the United States, a film that is rated R by the MPAA is restricted to those over the age of 17 unless accompanied by a parent or another adult guardian. The MPAA said “Unplanned” earned the rating due to “some disturbing/bloody images.”
Solomon told CNA that he found it to be “absurd” that Unplanned was given an R-rating when several, far more violent, movies to be released later this year were given PG-13 ratings.
Despite the R-rating, the directors of Unplanned told CNA that Christians should not worry about seeing the film alongside their children.
“For us, R means ‘recommend.’ Because the bottom line is that this is real life,” Solomon told CNA.
“It’s time for Christians to come to the reality of the fact that [abortion] is going on. If a rating is going to keep them from even looking at this subject, then shame on us,” he added.
Konzelman agreed, and told CNA that there is no nudity or profanity in the film that would merit an R-rating.
“They’re not even mentioning violence, other than the violence directly associated with the termination of an unborn human being. That’s it. That’s all that’s in there,” said Konzelman.
Unplanned is based on Johnson’s 2012 book of the same name. Johnson quit her job at Planned Parenthood in October 2009, one year after being named employee of the year, after she had been asked to assist with a late-term abortion.
In the film, multiple scenes depicting an abortion facility involve blood or post-abortive women. The directors told CNA that the MPAA objected in particular to a scene that depicts Johnson bleeding on a bathroom floor after taking an abortion pill.
The directors said they would not change that particular scene, or anything else in the film, as they felt it would be disrespectful to Johnson’s personal story.
“We’re not going to change it. It’s a true-life story. To change it just to appease the MPAA or a Hollywood entity is not going to happen. We told the true-life story of Abby Johnson, and these are the things that are happening,” said Konzelman.
Solomon told CNA that in real life, Johnson nearly bled to death in her bathroom after self-administering the second drug in an abortion drug protocol.
“For us to avoid that, for the sake of appeasing the MPAA, would make the story untrue,” said Solomon.
Even if the filmmakers sought to make changes to get a lower rating, it would be quite difficult as “[the MPAA] pretty much objected to everything, including black and white images of a sonogram,” said Konzelman.
To make any changes would require that the filmmakers “gut the entire movie,” which they said they did not want to do.
Johnson herself had two abortions prior to her ideological conversion. Since then, she has founded the organization “And Then There Were None,” which seeks to assist abortion industry workers with finding new jobs outside the industry. Since the group was founded, nearly 500 clinic workers have left the industry.
After Johnson left her job at Planned Parenthood, she converted to Catholicism. She and her husband are now expecting their eighth child.
Unplanned stars Ashley Bratcher as Abby Johnson. During filming, Bratcher discovered that her own mother had planned on having an abortion when she was pregnant with her, but changed her mind minutes before the procedure was to begin.
Written and directed by Konzelman and Solomon, who also wrote God’s Not Dead and God’s Not Dead 2, Unplanned was partially funded by Michael Lindell, a born-again Christian and the founder of the company MyPillow.
It is the first-ever R-rated film distributed by PureFlix, and will be released in theaters nationwide March 29.