Actress Ashley Bratcher, who plays prolife activist Abby Johnson in movie Unplanned, was nearly a victim of abortion herself.
The movie is based on Johnson’s book also titled Unplanned. Johnson worked for Planned Parenthood before realizing the immorality of abortion and resigned her position. She’s now an influential prolife advocate.
Unplanned is written and directed by Catholic filmmakers Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon. Catholic Digest talked with Johnson and Bratcher before the film’s March 29 release. The film brought in $6.1 million this past weekend, the second-best start ever for Pure Flix, the film’s faith-based distributor, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Q: Ashley, are you afraid that having a role in this movie could hurt your career?
Bratcher: No, that was the first thing people said to me. So many of my mentors said, “Don’t do it, don’t touch it; it’ll end your career.”
And I said, “So what?” There was never a doubt in my mind whether I was going to do this movie once I was offered it. I just knew that this was something that needed to be out there. I’m going into it fearlessly.
Q: Abby, did you have any reservations about your book Unplanned being made into a movie?
Johnson: I was excited about it when I first talked to Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon but I did have a moment where I thought, “Oh my goodness, this will make me more vulnerable than I have ever been.”
I have never moved in fear. Ever since leaving Planned Parenthood and becoming an advocate for life, my prayer has always been to do God’s will. I’ve learned that that means you have to be bold and fearless and walk one step at a time. There have been critics and skeptics, and that’s OK.
There have also been people who have heard my story — and through God’s grace — they have had conversions and lives have been saved. It has to be our prayer that more lives are saved through the film.
Q: Ashley, I heard that something surprising happened on the set — that you discovered that your mom nearly aborted you. Can you talk about how you found out?
Bratcher: I had already been working on the set for four days when my mom called me. I had not had a chance to talk to her for a while. I said, “Hey mom, I’m in Oklahoma doing this movie about Abby Johnson.” I started telling her about Abby’s testimony.
My mom had always been very open with me that she had had an abortion when she was 16. She was 19 when she got pregnant with me. I knew that she had thought about aborting me, but she couldn’t do it.
After I started telling her more about Abby’s story, she became more and more emotional. I said, “Mom, what’s wrong?”
And she said, “I need to tell you something I’ve never told you before — the timing was never right. When I was pregnant with you, I actually went to the clinic. They called my name, and they took me back and examined me — the woman who examined me was very pregnant. I was seconds away from having an abortion when I told the abortionist that I couldn’t do it. I got up off the table and walked out of the clinic.”
I did not know that until I had already been on set for four days. It’s very different to have someone say, “I thought about having an abortion, but I didn’t.” Then to be seconds away from not existing — not having the voice to tell this story. But here I am. It’s crazy. I’m still amazed by the story.
Q: Abby, you’ve received criticism from both sides — prolife advocates and those who support abortion rights. Do you think the same thing is going to happen with the Unplanned movie?
Johnson: Oh, yeah! Undoubtedly, there will be criticism from both sides.
Ashley and I — and our families — will pray through it. We will be spiritually and emotionally prepared as we can. We’re just here to tell a story — a true story — and that will always bring criticism because people don’t want to believe that something like this could happen.
Sometimes even the prolife movement — with the work that we do with former abortion workers — people have said, “Gosh, I just can’t believe that these people are actually leaving,” or “What do you mean God can reach the abortion doctor in our town?”
Of course, God can, and that makes people uncomfortable because it makes God even bigger and even more compassionate and merciful than we can even fathom. Sometimes we put limits on God and what he can do. This movie is going to blow that wide open, and that’s going to make people feel uncomfortable.