NY Times Finally Finds Pro-Life Hit 'Unplanned,' Offers Rebuttal Space: Still No Review

April 9th, 2019 4:40 PM

The New York Times finally caught up with the surprise hit pro-life movie Unplanned on the front of Tuesday’s Arts section, “Anti-Abortion In Hollywood – The makers of Unplanned have a hit despite hurdles.” Reggie Ugwu reported from a screening at a theatre in a New Jersey suburb under the headline “With Unplanned, Abortion Opponents Turn Toward Hollywood.”

It was a rare packed house for a weeknight in the suburbs, and when the movie was over, the sold-out crowd of about 100 last Wednesday spilled haltingly into the light.

A few -- a gaggle of nuns in their habits, at least one collared priest -- wore their dispositions on their sleeves. Others communicated in muted gestures, dabbed at tears, or lingered for long stretches in the popcorn-strewn vestibule at the AMC multiplex here, as if still processing the deliberately provocative movie they had just seen.

Since March 29, similar scenes have played out across the country as faith-based groups and many others have gathered en masse to see Unplanned, a new movie that paints a scathing portrait of abortion rights in general, and Planned Parenthood in particular.

Pro-abortion labeling aside, give Ugwu credit for dutifully documenting the obstacles set up by the liberal entertainment industry and social media mbos.

Unplanned has banked on its ability to draw such motivated crowds, despite what the filmmakers -- Christian anti-abortion advocates hoping to make a dent in Hollywood -- described in interviews as a torrent of adversity.


Television networks, too, rejected the film’s trailer as too political to touch; the official “Unplanned” Twitter account, erroneously linked to online trolls, was temporarily suspended on opening weekend; and the star of the movie, Ashley Bratcher, has struggled to book TV interviews outside Fox News and the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Those criticisms could have been aimed at the Times as well, given the paper's failure to review the movie, as Brent Bozell and Tim Graham noted.

Ugwu found excuses for the treatment, playing defense for the media.

Of course, no film is entitled to media exposure. And in each of the above cases, the companies and networks denied singling out Unplanned. But the belief among anti-abortion communities that powerful forces have arrayed against the film has kindled long-smoldering claims of liberal and anti-religious bias in the media and Silicon Valley....

The paper’s usual slanted abortion labeling came through.

The movie comes as conservatives are feeling emboldened to roll back abortion rights, including potentially overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, after the confirmation last October of Justice Brett Kavanaugh solidified their majority on the Supreme Court....


The filmmakers said they want the same treatment as that given to films favored by the abortion-rights movement, such as RBG, the [CNN Films] documentary about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Konzelman also referenced an announced film that will star Sandra Bullock as the former Texas state senator Wendy Davis, who has campaigned against restrictions on abortion rights.

RBG is a good comparison, given that the Times surrounded that hit documentary on Ginsburg, the former ACLU lawyer turned abortion-rights defending Supreme Court justice, by issuing gush from every direction, from the film review to Melena Ryzik’s nauseating: “Ninja Supreme Court Justice: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Has Fun With Fame.” And the silly “Notorious R.B.G.” meme still flashes subliminally within every section of the paper.

While the paper's gushing RBG film coverage doesn’t quote Ginsburg critics, the pro-abortion side was called in to offer a rebuttal to Unplanned.

Unplanned is based on the memoir of the same name by Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Tex., who became a celebrity of the anti-abortion movement after what she said was a crisis of conscience. The film dramatizes her conversion narrative and includes three unflinching portrayals of abortions, the first and most explicit of which occurs in the first 10 minutes. (Reports in Texas Monthly and Salon have raised questions about the details of Johnson’s story, and Planned Parenthood said in a statement that the movie adaptation “promotes many falsehoods.”)


In that first scene, teased in the trailer and on posters as “the moment that changed everything,” Abby, played by Bratcher, witnesses an ultrasound-guided termination of a pregnancy at 13 weeks. The ultrasound, as depicted onscreen, shows a fetus with a discernible head, torso and limbs frantically squirming away from a doctor’s probe -- an action that Abby later describes as “twisting and fighting for its life” -- before being liquefied by suction.

Given a description of this scene, Jennifer Villavicencio, a fellow with the nonpartisan American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists who performs ultrasound-guided abortions but has not seen the film, said that while an ultrasound of a 13-week-old fetus may show a visible head and body, the notion that it would be “fighting for its life” is misleading.


Konzelman and Solomon defended the scene as faithful to Johnson’s personal account and said it had been vetted by Anthony Levatino, a retired obstetrician-gynecologist and longtime anti-abortion activist, who also plays the doctor in the scene.