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She says she decided she could no longer work there after seeing an ultrasound during an abortion procedure.


Johnson told Vox the procedure was the culmination of a long process of disillusionment with the group, which she felt was becoming increasingly focused on abortion. Johnson later joined Coalition for Life, a group whose members protested outside her clinic, and eventually became a highly visible anti-abortion advocate, founding a nonprofit that works to convince abortion clinic employees to quit their jobs. The film shows Johnson beginning as a volunteer at Planned Parenthood as a college student. As she works her way up to clinic director, she witnesses callous and dangerous treatment of patients — one young woman is left sitting in a recovery room, bleeding into her socks, until Johnson intervenes.

Early in the film, Johnson, played by Ashley Bratcher, herself has two abortions — the second, a medication abortion, is depicted as a harrowing, multi-day ordeal.

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Later, she remarries an early marriage ended in divorce and has a daughter, Grace. Soon after her arrival at Planned Parenthood, Johnson encounters a variety of clinic protesters, including some who harass patients.

But she strikes up a cordial relationship with one couple — Shawn Carney of Coalition for Life and his wife, Marilisa. They are kind, offering help and counseling to patients and Planned Parenthood employees alike. The scenes on the sidewalk in front of the clinic may be emblematic of a larger approach by the creators of Unplanned and movies like it.

‘Unplanned’ sheds harsh light on Planned Parenthood

While reproductive justice advocates encouraged people to share the stories of their abortions, Sisson said, anti-abortion advocates began making movies like Unplanned. The filmmaking effort has ramped up recently, with three scripted anti-abortion films hitting theaters in the past year.

Throughout the film, Johnson is portrayed as assertive and strong — her mother jokes at one point about reading The Strong-Willed Child by James Dobson, founder of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family. Johnson, now a working mother of seven with an eighth on the way, insisted in our interview that the film is far from anti-working mom.

She pointed to a scene in which Johnson discloses her pregnancy to her supervisor.


Transcript: Abby's Afraid |

It remains to be seen how many minds the film will change. Churches and anti-abortion groups have organized group viewings of the film, according to the Times, and the Unplanned website includes a devotional called Planned From the Start , aimed at religious viewers. Meanwhile, Sisson and others question whether the approach of Unplanned is really so different from that of the protesters it decries.

In fact, according to one recent study, complications occur in about 2. The procedure is significantly safer than childbirth. Unplanned has also been criticized for its portrayal of the ultrasound-guided abortion that Johnson says led her to leave her job. Jennifer Villavicencio, a fellow with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told the Times that at 13 weeks, fetuses do not feel pain and cannot recoil from a threat.

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They are impactful. The abortion instrument — a suction tube — was on the screen as well. The baby jumped away from it but it was all for naught. The abortionist turned on the suction and I saw that baby get sucked apart right in front of me on the screen and inches from the probe I was holding.

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  4. The life that was there just a couple minutes ago was gone. In that moment, I saw for myself what I was supporting for the last eight years and it broke me. How do you deal with something so profound that completely turns your worldview upside down? Everything I knew to be true was flipped.

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    The lies exposed. I cannot have just seen that. How could not have known?