Abortion about to become 'un-hip,' say directors of 'Unplanned' movie

"Unplanned" by Roxane Salonen (CatholicMom.com)

A moment from the on-set filming from Abby Johnson’s story, “Unplanned,” in Oklahoma City in May 2018; here, “Abby,” played by actress Ashley Bratcher, approaches a Planned Parenthood representative wearing a pink cowboy hat during a college career fair. Copyright 2018 Roxane Salonen. All rights reserved.

In the spring of 2018, I joined fellow communicators in Oklahoma City to observe the live set of “Unplanned,” scheduled to release March 22, 2019. A small group of us, having arrived late due to travel delays, were offered a separate, exclusive interview with the directors the first evening of our visit. And though fatigued, my weariness quickly faded in the glow of the palpable passion of Carey Solomon and Chuck Konzelman.

Indeed, even if I’d never read the book Unplanned, nor co-written the memoir of another former Planned Parenthood manager inspired by Abby Johnson’s story on which the movie is based, in merely meeting the directors of the film recounting Johnson’s dramatic exodus from the abortion industry, I’d likely have become a fast fan of the project.

A portion of our time together centered on the fence, which becomes a central symbol in the movie. Johnson’s conversion began to unfold after a pro-life advocate reached out to her through the fence bordering the abortion facility where she worked, which set it off from those who came there to protest and pray.

“It protects those inside from those outside,” Konzelman said of the fence. “It was designed for protection, but it becomes a prison.”

"Unplanned" by Roxane Salonen (CatholicMom.com)

Upon arriving in Oklahoma City in May 2018, communicators visiting to learn more about the making of the movie “Unplanned” were given a tour-by-shuttle of the outside locations where filming took place, including the building depicting the abortion facility where Abby Johnson worked as a manager for Planned Parenthood. In the story, the fence surrounding the facility symbolizes the many ways our divisions can become prisons, according to the directors. Copyright 2018 Roxane Salonen. All rights reserved.

Prior to leaving Planned Parenthood, he noted, Johnson learned that when people stand vigil outside an abortion facility, the no-show rate climbs as high as 75 percent. “People drive right by,” he remarked. “The great irony is that most of the ‘saves’ they achieve, they never even know about.”

Solomon took the analogy further, saying the fence also symbolizes the line between faith and lack of faith, between love and hate. “It’s pro-choice and pro-life, it’s right and wrong, it’s God and the Devil, it’s every kind of combination (of opposites) you know.”

But when asked whether a day will come when the fence is no longer needed, Solomon answered optimistically. “I can tell you honestly, the Lord is about to do a mighty work — not only in Hollywood,” he said, but in the culture at large. “Abortion as you know it is going to end.”

“(Abortion) is about to become un-hip and un-cool,” Konzelman added.

"Unplanned" by Roxane Salonen (CatholicMom.com)

Film directors Carey Solomon, left, and Chuck Konzelman welcome CatholicMom.com writer Roxane Salonen onto the set of the “Unplanned” movie in Oklahoma City on May 15, 2018. Copyright 2018 Roxane Salonen. All rights reserved.

Comparing this new film with another popular faith-based film they directed — “God’s Not Dead” — Konzelman said “Unplanned,” rather than having a moral, philosophical story line, is much more of an emotional journey.

“Abby is an emotional creature, a force of nature,” he said. “And on that level, I think it’s going to be much easier for the audience to relate to what’s going on, particularly for the females.”

“This is a deep, visceral, emotional journey,” Solomon continued. “There’s a sin being committed here every day in the United States, so in that way, it’s not like ‘God’s Not Dead’ … here, we’re battling sin.”

“This is the only sin,” Konzelman added, “in which women beg forgiveness before they climb on the table, and they know it’s a sin. It’s the only one that falls into that category — where it’s repented of even before it’s committed.”

But Johnson doesn’t want the account to end there, they said.

Konzelman compared Johnson’s story with Saint Paul’s conversion from his former self, Saul, who’d spoken with zeal against Christians. Similarly, he said, while at Planned Parenthood, Johnson felt she was helping other women. “But then she was just as passionate on the other side, in helping (women) find forgiveness and reconciliation. That’s her whole story, and that’s why it’s so endearing. Women will say, ‘I can understand this person … and I can recognize how she was deceived.”

Offering another Biblical comparison, Solomon reminded how, after Peter encounters Christ, he leaves his prosperous fishing company, along with his family, to follow the Messiah. “That’s how radically his life changed,” he said, adding that so did Johnson’s, and theirs in agreeing to direct this film.

“It comes down to this: Do you believe in God? Do you love God? Will do you what God’s asked you to do?” he said. “If you measure what he did for us … what, are you going to say, No?!”

Though they knew the costs that might be associated with taking on a film surrounding such a divisive topic, Solomon said, God put it on their hearts that the time was right for this film to be introduced to the public. It’s a story, they reiterated, that’s going to be part of a paradigm shift in the way America views abortion.

“In faith, he prepares you for the task at hand,” Solomon said of God’s movement in the process. “Moses was 80 when he was asked to walk across the desert … we knew we were prepared.”

The two then shared stories of what they believe were miracles and signs from God to go forward: money that came through at the last minute, and people who stepped up at exactly the right time — and none too soon.

“God’s fond of the miracle of the last moment,” Konzelman said. “We’ve had a dozen of those.”

Above all, they said, they want Jesus to shine through the film. “Basically to just have Him say, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant,’ and to know that we served with our life,” Solomon said. “He loved us so much. How can we not love back? He loved me into loving Him. Imagine someone so good that no matter what, you have to stop sinning because you can’t comprehend hurting Him because He’s been so good to you. That’s crazy love.”

"Unplanned" by Roxane Salonen (CatholicMom.com)

Daryl C. Lefever, producer of the “Unplanned” movie as well as the hit film, “I Can Only Imagine,” shows communicators the movie-set room where Abby Johnson had her epiphany about abortion after being asked to assist with one, a moment that reminder her of the sonogram she had while pregnant with her daughter Grace two years prior. Copyright 2018 Roxane Salonen. All rights reserved.

To learn more about the “Unplanned” movie or learn how your pro-life or church group can host a red-carpet fundraising event to bring the movie to your city, visit UnplannedFilm.com.

Q4U: Have you read the book Unplanned? If so, what effect did Abby Johnson’s story have on your life?

Copyright 2018 Roxane Salonen


About Author

Roxane B. Salonen, a wife and mother of five from Fargo, N.D., is an award-winning children’s author and freelance writer who also enjoys Catholic radio hosting and speaking. Roxane co-authored former Planned Parenthood manager Ramona Trevino’s memoir, Redeemed by Grace. Her work is featured on "Peace Garden Passage" at her website, roxanesalonen.com

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