Unplanned is one of the best movies I’ve seen,” says Father Vincent Hawkswell, who describes himself as “something of a movie aficionado.”

“It’s not just a good pro-life movie: it’s a good movie, period.”

Like the book of the same name, the film tells the story of Abby Johnson, former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas, who changed her mind about abortion in October 2009 and became ardently pro-life.

Abby and her husband Doug, already Christians, joined the Catholic Church in 2012. After having undergone two abortions herself, she is now the mother of nine children.
Father Vince, who was editor of The B.C. Catholic from 1982 to 1997, spent 24 days in jail in 1989 for helping to block access to an abortion clinic in Vancouver. He and some friends saw the movie in Bellingham, Wash., in March, and he intends to see it again in Mission or Langley next week.

“The movie is very faithful to the book,” he said. “It’s good in the same way the book is good.”

What attracted him to Unplanned in the first place, he said, is the absence of the “verbal abuse” and “rejection” encountered on both sides of the abortion debate. For this reason, he has included it in the library he makes available to people who take his course “The Catholic Faith.”

“Oh, how we love to vilify our opponents – from both sides,” Johnson says in the introduction to her book. “How easy to assume that those on ‘our’ side are right and wise and good; that those on ‘their’ side are treacherous and foolish and deceptive.”
In fact, she writes, “we have far more in common with the ‘other’ side than we might imagine.”

“Both the book and the movie make it clear that Abby Johnson joined Planned Parenthood out of a genuine desire to help women,” Father Hawkswell said. “She wanted to help give them control over their reproductive faculties – even, if necessary, by abortion – but her personal goal was to help make abortion unnecessary. When she joined Planned Parenthood, she thought that was their goal, too.”

In addition, he said, both the book and the movie highlight the importance of the prayerful, non-confrontational approach taken by 40 Days for Life, which also began in Bryan, Texas.

“When Abby Johnson changed her mind about abortion, she went straight to their office,” he said. “It was somewhere she could go. She knew they would not reject her, even though she had run an abortion clinic.”

Johnson dedicated her book “to my parents, who have always stood by me and supported me, no matter what crazy ideas I have fallen for.”

That is what women in “crisis pregnancies” need, Father Hawkswell stressed, citing the case of a young relative of his who became pregnant before her wedding.

“When I joined the family council that was convened to discuss the matter, I began by hugging her and congratulating her,” he said. “After all, she was carrying a new life! And she burst into tears, saying I was the only one who hadn’t scolded her.”

“I can understand the temptation to have an abortion,” Father Hawkswell said. “I can sympathize with women who fall for it. I try to be compassionate with them in confession, as Pope Francis has asked. I try to be like Jesus: ‘Has no one condemned you? Neither will I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.’ As Moses said, ‘Choose life, that you and your descendants may live.’”

After Johnson left Planned Parenthood, the organization took her to court to try to stop her telling her story, but failed to win the required injunction.

“I’ve spent years on the front lines of the face-off between pro-choice and pro-life advocates,” she said. “Which side? Both sides. You are about to enter my journey from naïve college girl, to director of a Planned Parenthood clinic, to advocate for families in crisis, including the unborn members of those families.”

“It is a movie no one should miss,” Father Hawkswell said. “I’m going to see it again as many times as I can.”