REVIEW: Unplanned and the abortion business

The movie premieres March 29 in the U.S.

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Abby Johnson was astounded when in a meeting her supervisor Cheryl told her that her plan consisted in doubling the number of abortions in every clinic. After receiving the award for the best Planned Parenthood employee, Abby had the courage to publicly disagree with her boss’ intentions. She asked her boss if the goal of Planned Parenthood was really to provide contraceptive methods for women in order to avoid the rise in the number of abortions. Abby made it clear that this had been her motivation for joining the organization. Cheryl later rebuked her in private telling her that abortion is what brings Planned Parenthood the greatest profit – just as a burger business benefits more from French fries and fountain drinks than from burgers themselves. “Abortion is for us like soda and French fries,” Cheryl says to her.

Unplanned tells the story of Abby Johnson, who decided to volunteer at Planned Parenthood when she was a college student. It reveals how this young woman, full of dreams to help others, becomes trapped by the arguments she hears – full of apparent goodness. The engaging narrative, with its use of flashbacks and great acting by the main actress Ashely Bratcher, highlights important elements, such as Abby’s strong emotional experience throughout this journey and the internal battle with her own conscience, which seems to call out the gravity of her actions. Perhaps, this is also due to the fact that she knew her parents firmly believed in defending the life of the unborn. Moreover, the production stresses the perseverance of the activists of 40 Days for Life, who continually prayed for the souls of aborted babies and tried to convince the women arriving at Planned Parenthood to choose life.

After being a volunteer, Abby was hired by the organization and later named the director of an abortion clinic in Bryan, TX, becoming the youngest person to hold such position at Planned Parenthood. As director, she would welcome women who arrived at the clinic for abortions and would advise them, telling them not to worry since the fetus in their womb was not yet a human being; it was still too little and wouldn’t feel anything. She would encourage them not to be afraid because nothing bad would happen to them. This, however, was not always the case. Johnson formed part of the organization for eight years and collaborated in nearly 22,000 abortions. However, everything ended when she walked into an abortion room to assist a woman for the first time. When she saw the ultrasound – which expecting mothers are not allowed to see – she saw a baby of 13 weeks fighting for his life.

Unplanned often shows with severity the drama of abortion, the loneliness of many women who arrive at the clinic deceived and afraid to terminate their pregnancy, without fully knowing about the humanity of the being in their womb. It reveals the way in which the abortion industry wants to conceal or reduce the tremendous negative consequences that such an action has on women’s physical, psychological and spiritual wellbeing. It is a story well told, in which Abby, after encountering different circumstances and being surrounded by people who loved her and respected her liberty – yet not without telling her the truth – reconsiders her actions and eventually turns from a professional woman in the abortion business, to a convinced advocate of the unborn.

COMING UP: From Columbine to Christ: “Not only did God lead me out of Columbine, he was leading me to himself.”

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Every school day for almost two years, Jenica Thornby would spend her lunch hour in the library at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Every day, except April 20, 1999.

“I was sitting in my art class when all of the sudden I had this urge to leave school. I remember thinking, there is no way I am going to be talked into staying.”

Thornby found her friend that she always studied with and talked her into leaving too. As they drove away in a car her father had bought her just a week earlier, behind them they saw dozens of other students running out of the school. Thinking it was maybe a fire drill, Thornby kept driving.

Back inside the school, two students had entered with guns, where they would kill 12 students and a teacher, and wound over 20 more people before taking their own lives.

In the days that followed, Thornby would learn that many of the casualties took place in the library, where on any other day she would have been sitting.

“I remember thinking, I always went to the library, and the only reason I wasn’t there was because I had this urge to leave. That was really hard to wrap my mind around, and so I really wondered, ‘What gave me that urge, why wasn’t I there?’”

Two decades later, Thornby is now Sister Mary Gianna, a religious sister of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and on the 20th Anniversary of the Columbine massacre, she shared her story with the Denver Catholic of how God led her out of her high school that day, and through a series of events, led her into a deep relationship with Christ.

Sr. Mary Gianna DLJC poses for a portrait at the Columbine Memorial on April 18, 2019, in Littleton, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

SEARCHING FOR FULFILMENT

Sister Mary Gianna said growing up in Texas, California and then Colorado, she had loving parents, but God and religion were not part of their lives.

After the school shooting, like many of her classmates, Sister Mary Gianna struggled coming to grips with what had happened. Coupled with emotional scars from bullying in her teenage years and other insecurities, she said she tried desperately just to fit in.

“I started drinking and going to parties, thinking if I was in a relationship, then I’ll be happy,” Sister Mary Gianna recalled. “I was searching for fulfilment.”

But right around the time a classmate of hers who seemingly had everything going for him committed suicide her senior year, Sister Mary Gianna said she hit rock bottom.

“If he was in so much pain and suffering and took his life, what do I do with all my suffering and all my pain?” Sister Mary Gianna said she asked herself. “I thought I was going to take my own life by my 18th birthday.”

It was that year that a friend invited her to come to a youth group at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church, where Sister Mary would meet a youth minister named Kate.

“I remember seeing something different in (Kate),” said Sister Mary Gianna. “She was so bright, so full of life. I could tell that she had something in her life that was missing in mine.”

Sister Mary Gianna said Kate and the youth group introduced her to a God that loved her, and that had a plan for her life.

“I felt like I was junk to be thrown away, and (Kate) would tell me you are made in God’s image and his likeness, and if God created you, how can you call yourself junk?” recalled Sister Mary Gianna. “I realized God did have a plan, and I love the words of St. Augustine: ‘Our hearts are restless until they rest in God,” and I realized not only did God lead me out of Columbine, he was leading me to himself.”

RCIA, NET and DLJC

After high school graduation, with the support of her parents Sister Mary Gianna chose to attend Franciscan University of Steubenville, where her freshman year she went through RCIA and was received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil of 2002.

After college, she spent a year with NET (National Evangelization Team), sharing her testimony with teenagers across the country. At the same time, through the encouragement of others, she began to consider religious life.

“I felt God wanted to use me to lead others to Christ as my youth minister had led me to Christ,” said Sister Mary Gianna. “And I felt God was calling me to share how he had worked in my life, my personal testimony.”

Sister Mary Gianna said words in a book by Father Benedict Groeschel really impacted her.

“He wrote, ‘Instead of asking God why something happened, ask him, what would you have me do?’” Sister Mary Gianna said. “So instead of reflecting on my life and why did this happen or that happen, I began to ask God, ‘What would you have me do?’”

In 2011, Jenica Thornby entered religious life as a member of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, was given the name Sister Mary Gianna, and last year on August 4, 2018, took her final vows. She now serves at The Ark and The Dove retreat center in Pittsburgh.

CHAIN REACTIONS

Standing in the center of the Columbine Memorial at Clement Park, Sister Mary Gianna is drawn to the plaque that remembers Rachel Joy Scott.

Sr. Mary Gianna DLJC poses for a portrait at the Columbine Memorial on April 18, 2019, in Littleton, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Rachel was one of the first students shot on April 20, 1999, and after being wounded, one of the gunmen reportedly asked her if she still believed in God, to which Rachel replied, “You know I do,” before the gunman shot her in the head.

“The two boys talked about how they wanted to start a chain reaction of death and violence and destruction,” Sister Mary Gianna said. “Rachel had a theory that if one person could go out of their way and show compassion and kindness, we would never know how far it would go, it just might start a chain reaction.”

Sister Mary Gianna said Rachel’s story has become an inspiration to her, and coincidently, Rachel’s family played a role in her own conversion. Sister Mary Gianna said the day after the shooting she was at a friend’s house and her friend’s mom told Rachel’s aunt about how she had left just before the shooting began. Sister Mary Gianna said Rachel’s aunt replied, “God must have a plan for your life.”

It was one of the first seeds planted in Sister Mary Gianna’s heart, that started to grow, and as Sister Mary Gianna continued to say ‘yes’ to God, led her to the life she has today.

“Even when I didn’t know God that day at Columbine, he led me out of school, he protected me,” said Sister Mary Gianna. “He loved me so much that he drew near to me and has sown me this path of life.”

“Even in the midst of tragedy, God can bring good, God could bring life out of death. The worst tragedy was Jesus being put to death on the Cross, and it led to our salvation. And even in the midst of this tragedy of Columbine, God could bring good.”