The filmmakers said they want the same treatment as that given to films favored by the abortion-rights movement, such as “On the Basis of Sex,” about the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Konzelman also referenced an announced film that will star Sandra Bullock as the former Texas state senator Wendy Davis, who has campaigned against restrictions on abortion rights.
“Would any of the places that turned us down for advertising turn down Sony, or Paramount, or Universal with a Sandra Bullock movie from the other side?” he asked. “I dare say not.”
“Unplanned” is based on the memoir of the same name by Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Tex., who became a celebrity of the anti-abortion movement after what she said was a crisis of conscience. The film dramatizes her conversion narrative and includes three unflinching portrayals of abortions, the first and most explicit of which occurs in the first 10 minutes. (Reports in Texas Monthly and Salon have raised questions about the details of Johnson’s story, and Planned Parenthood said in a statement that the movie adaptation “promotes many falsehoods.”)
The abortion scenes earned the movie its R rating, for “some disturbing/bloody images,” which meant that its trailers couldn’t run in front of non-R-rated films, or even on some Christian radio stations, such as K-Love and Air1. But the filmmakers said they weren’t willing to compromise on the graphic portrayals, which are central to the film’s contention that it is a barely fictionalized exposé that promises hard truths.
In that first scene, teased in the trailer and on posters as “the moment that changed everything,” Abby, played by Bratcher, witnesses an ultrasound-guided termination of a pregnancy at 13 weeks. The ultrasound, as depicted onscreen, shows a fetus with a discernible head, torso and limbs frantically squirming away from a doctor’s probe — an action that Abby later describes as “twisting and fighting for its life” — before being liquefied by suction.
Given a description of this scene, Jennifer Villavicencio, a fellow with the nonpartisan American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists who performs ultrasound-guided abortions but has not seen the film, said that while an ultrasound of a 13-week-old fetus may show a visible head and body, the notion that it would be “fighting for its life” is misleading.
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