Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A hit Christian film has gaping holes in its “true story” that will mean absolutely nothing because its target audiences live in a separate, impenetrable reality and/or think it’s perfectly fine to lie for Jesus. Welcome to Unplanned.
For those of you blissfully unaware, Unplanned is based on the book by anti-choice activist Abby Johnson, who made a dramatic conversion from being a top Planned Parenthood employee to working for the Christian protest group that picketed her clinic everyday. Granted, that part is true. Johnson did, in fact, resign to join Coalition for Life, and I can appreciate how a real-life Saul-to-Paul moment could be a fascinating story for forced birth nutjobs looking to cement their worldview. There’s just one small problem: The details of Johnson’s story were debunked years ago.
According to the myth Johnson has been tweaking for a solid decade now, she resigned from her position as Community Services Director in October 2009 after witnessing an ultrasound-guided abortion performed where a fetus dramatically recoiled during the procedure. She also claimed that Planned Parenthood pressured employees to increase revenue by increasing the number of abortions performed. So right out of the gate, she had a delicious red meat platter ready for a hungry audience. It was everything the anti-choice crowd could’ve wanted from a Planned Parenthood insider, so naturally, it was all bullsh*t.
For starters, Fox News deleted a 2009 interview with Johnson where she heavily claims that Planned Parenthood profits from abortion. Fox News! On top of that, Amanda Marcotte found two publications that easily poked holes in Johnson’s conversion moments in the months following her conversion. The most damning reporting came from Texas Monthly who not only proved that the abortion Johnson allegedly saw never happened, but let her paint herself right into a corner with a side of racism to boot. (Emphasis mine.)
When I asked if she could provide any other details of what she saw that day to help firm up her story, Johnson volunteered that the patient in question was a black woman, a description that she has never previously included in her account. Only one patient from September 26 was black, according to the Induced Abortion Report Form, and she was in the sixth week of her pregnancy. There would be no medical reason for a doctor to use an ultrasound to guide an abortion performed on a woman at such an early stage. Even if one was used, it’s hard to imagine how Johnson, who said she has seen hundreds of ultrasound pictures in her career, could mistake a one-quarter-inch-long embryo for a three-inch, thirteen-week fetus.
Whoops! So, if the key catalyst to Johnson’s conversion never even happened, why did she resign from Planned Parent— oh wait, she was getting fired, wasn’t she?
Another 2010 piece in the Texas Observer unearthed further details of the circumstances surrounding Johnson’s departure from Planned Parenthood. Johnson’s friend Laura Kaminczak described Johnson’s story as “bullshit,” saying that she and Johnson had both gotten in trouble with their respective employers for using work email for inappropriate conversations. Kaminczak also told the Observer that Johnson had had two abortions herself. Johnson later admitted this, and has incorporated it into her conversion tale, adding more meat to her Christian-friendly narrative of personal redemption.
Here’s where things get even sh*ttier. After joining Coalition for Life, Johnson started claiming she never received death threats from anti-choice groups despite public statements to the contrary, which probably has a whole lot to do with Planned Parenthood catching her leaking the addresses of abortion providers before she resigned. Or in other words, straight-up trying to get people killed. Very pro-life.
Around the same time that Johnson found fame on the Christian circuit despite her entire story falling apart under the slightest scrutiny, Heaven is For Real was a national bestseller and became a hit movie that sparked the recent surge in faith-based films. But like Unplanned, there were some significant problems with the details: For starters, the story that a child visited Heaven was literally deemed un-Biblical by prominent pastors. More importantly, there’s no medical evidence that the kid even died in the first place, which is kind of necessary for the whole going to Heaven part. (It also didn’t help that a best-selling book with a very similar premise was pulled from Christian bookshelves after that boy flat-out admitted he made the whole thing up.) But instead of Christian audiences asking themselves why they so quickly swallowed a story where a child comes back from the dead to tell everyone about Jesus’s rainbow-colored horse, they whipped another wad of cash out of their pockets and lined up for the next lie.
As for why any of this is important, who’s the president right now? There you go.