Belfast Telegraph

Pro-choice supporters urged to complain over Northern Ireland screening of film Unplanned

Ashley Bratcher as Abby Johnson in Unplanned
Ashley Bratcher as Abby Johnson in Unplanned

By Eimear McGovern

A pro-choice organisation has urged their supporters to complain to cinemas about a pro-life film that is being screened across Northern Ireland over the next few weeks.

Alliance for Choice in Londonderry said they're disappointed to see cinemas including the ODEON in Belfast and Brunswick Moviebowl screening the film Unplanned, which they say is an example of 'anti-choice propaganda' that is 'filled with inaccuracies'.

"The Belfast screening is funded by Stanton Healthcare who lie and misinform women up to 24 weeks in order to ensure they cannot access abortion services," said a spokesperson for Alliance for Choice.

"We would urge supporters of free safe legal local healthcare for women to reach out to these cinemas and ensure pro-choice voices are heard."

Pregnancy centre Stanton Healthcare was set up by US Christian activist Brandi Swindell and opened in Belfast in 2015.

Unplanned is based on the memoir of Abby Johnson, formerly a pro-choice advocate who is now opposed to abortion. It was the fourth-highest grossing film in the US on its opening weekend and it took in $14m at the box office in its first fortnight.

It tells the story of Johnson, who, for eight years, had worked for America's leading reproductive health organisation Planned Parenthood. She experienced a dramatic change of heart after witnessing a medical termination.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Stanton Healthcare NI said: "We are delighted that this movie will hit the cinema screens across the whole of Ireland, north and south. We have invited many political leaders across Northern Ireland to our special screenings in Belfast, Cookstown and Strabane.

"There is a huge public demand to see this movie, and the cinemas have responded - the people have been heard. At this moment in history, the public have the right to see the truth behind the abortion industry, and the harm it causes to both the mother and the baby. This is exactly what Unplanned unveils. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, no one will leave this film unmoved by Abby’s journey. 

"This personal drama of life-and-death encounters, speaks hope and compassion into the political controversy that surrounds the issue of abortion, especially at this time when abortion is looming over Northern Ireland.

The film has been endorsed by many high-profile figures including Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Ted Cruz, who was the runner-up for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential election.

In a letter to Brunswick Moviebowl in Londonderry seen by the Belfast Telegraph, Alliance for Choice supporter Shannon Downey said: "With the current situation in Northern Ireland meaning that decriminalisation of abortion will occur on 21st October 2019, Brunswick Moviebowl is making a political statement by screening ‘Unplanned’ and therefore saying to the 1053 women from our communities who travel to England for abortion care every year that their business is not welcome at Brunswick Moviebowl."

In the scene that Abby Johnson's character describes as "the moment that changed everything", a 13-week-old foetus is shown "twisting and fighting for its life".

"In this scene the fetus attempts to ‘move away’ from the doctor’s medical instrument. This representation is grossly inaccurate and biologically impossible," said Ms Downey. 

"Both the American College and Royal Colleges of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist affirm that a fetus does not have the capacity to perceive pain or possess sentience until at least 24 weeks gestation."

"In this film, Planned Parenthood is depicted as a for-profit abortion business. In fact, Planned Parenthood is a non-profit that provides a variety of sexual and reproductive healthcare to millions across the United States. Abortion makes up just 3.4% of its services.

"Choosing to screen this film not only shames women but supplies dangerous myths and lies. I would urge you to reconsider showing this propaganda as it is endangering the women in your community," she said.

The ODEON and Brunswick MovieBowl have been approached for a comment.



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