WALSH: If Abortion Is Just A Normal Medical Procedure, Why Did ‘Unplanned’ Earn An R Rating For Depicting One?


The pro-life film “Unplanned” opened with an astounding $6 million debut weekend. I call this figure astounding because of the movie’s small budget, and also because of the powerful external forces that have conspired against it. Various TV channels have refused to run its ads. The “Unplanned” Twitter account was arbitrarily suspended and many users reported that they were unable to follow the account after it was reinstated. Of course, it also faced an unofficial embargo from all the major late night shows and other media platforms.

But the most insidious form of censorship came from the Motion Picture Association of America, which slapped the film with an R rating, creating the absurd situation that minors in states like California, Connecticut, Maine, New York, and others, can get an abortion without parental consent but they cannot watch a movie about abortion without parental consent. The MPAA gave Pure Flix, the Christian entertainment company, its first R rating on the basis of two scenes that depict abortion honestly, though not gratuitously. Abby Johnson, the woman on whom the film is based, described the two scenes in an open letter to parents:

So why the R rating? For two scenes. Two scenes that the movie team was determined to re-create accurately, at my insistence, because they are important for people to see. The first is a CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) recreation of what I saw on the ultrasound screen when I assisted in the abortion procedure that convinced me of the humanity of the unborn. You will see what I saw: a baby on an ultrasound screen in black and white 2D. You will see the abortion instrument, which looks like a big straw in real life and like a dark line on the ultrasound, introduced onto the screen. You will see the baby struggle against it. You will see the baby first slowly, then quickly disappear into the instrument as it does what it is designed to do. It is important for you to know that this was a CGI recreation and NOT footage from a real abortion. But it sure looks like what I saw. I think this scene is so important for teenagers and older children to see because it tells the truth about what our culture keeps trying to insist is a “right” and a “freedom.” No one will be able to see this scene and then say they “don’t know” the truth about abortion.

The second scene that was cited as a reason for the R rating is a scene that re-creates my awful experience with the abortion pill. Ashley, the actress who plays me, did a fantastic job capturing both my physical pain and my fear. I won’t lie to you; that scene shows some blood. In real life I hemorrhaged so badly I thought I was going to die. The movie captures that without being gratuitous or gory. I think the producers walked that line well.

This is not slasher film gore. It’s as tame a depiction of abortion as it can possibly be. It may still be upsetting, but only pro-lifers have any reason to be upset by it. The pro-abortion crowd (and something tells me the MPAA is staffed more with the latter than the former) are always quick to insist that abortion is just a medical procedure. Abortion, they say, is no different from gallbladder surgery. But would a movie earn an R rating for showing a surgeon operate on a gallbladder?

An abortion activist recently explained to a group of kids that getting an abortion is “just like a crappy dentist appointment or something.” Okay, well, is a film deemed inappropriate for minors if it shows a dental exam? It seems that an R rating can only be justified if we admit that abortion is the violent killing of a human life. Violent killing obviously will often ensure that a film gets the adults-only designation. A portrayal of a perfectly safe, legitimate, routine medical procedure does not.

But this is the kind of cognitive dissonance we always see from the pro-abortion crowd. They want abortion to be treated as a normal medical procedure, but only up to a point. They don’t want it to be regulated like a normal medical procedure. They don’t want it to be portrayed in film like a normal medical procedure. They don’t want pro-lifers walking around with banners showing images of this procedure and its results. They don’t want women getting second opinions about this normal medical procedure. They don’t want to talk about the side effects and hazards of this normal medical procedure, like we do with other normal medical procedures. Come to think of it, they really don’t want abortion to be treated as a normal medical procedure at all.

Apparently the MPAA agrees.

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