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Falsehoods and Fear

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

"Unplanned," the movie adapted from the best-selling book written by Abby Johnson, opened on March 29 and brought in nearly $6.4 million in its opening weekend -- more than double what was predicted and an astonishing amount for a faith-based film. The box office take is made even more remarkable by the fact that most broadcast and cable television channels refused to run ads for the film and the Motion Picture Association of America rated the film R despite a lack of nudity, violence or profanity. The rating was apparently because of footage showing a computer-generated "ultrasound image" of abortion as well as a scene where Johnson's character on film hemorrhages badly after a pharmaceutical (pill) abortion. The irony, as noted by both Johnson and Ashley Bratcher -- the actress who plays Johnson -- is that a 16-year-old teenage girl can get an abortion but cannot watch a movie in theaters about abortion.

As most who have followed the story know, Johnson was the director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas -- and the youngest director in the organization's history. Like many women who volunteer or work for Planned Parenthood, she was initially motivated by a deep concern for women in difficult situations. But she began to question her career when it became clear that her objective to reduce the number of abortions ran counter to Planned Parenthood's corporate policy; the organization rewarded and promoted employees on the basis of how many abortions were performed at their clinics.

The watershed moment for Johnson was when she was asked to assist with an abortion of a 13-week-old fetus. Johnson watched on the ultrasound, horrified, as the fetus squirmed away from the vacuum suction tube, only to be violently dismembered as it was sucked into the tube and killed.

Johnson subsequently left Planned Parenthood and became a nationally known activist in the pro-life movement. She has since founded "And Then There Were None," a nonprofit organization whose objective is to assist abortion workers who have left the industry. Hundreds, Johnson says, have done so.

There are two powerful themes throughout Johnson's story and in the national debate about abortion: falsehood and fear.

Fear is what motivates many women to seek abortions in the first place, and few know this as well as those who have counseled pregnant women considering their options. The fears take many forms:

"I can't tell my parents."

"I'll have to leave school."

"I'm too young; I can't support a baby."

"I/We can't afford another child."

"My boyfriend/husband doesn't want this baby."

"I don't love the baby's father."

"I/We can't handle a child with a disability."

Every woman's situation is unique to her, but the feeling of being alone and terrified is shockingly commonplace -- and powerful.

Even more powerful is the assistance that pro-life pregnancy centers can provide. There are literally thousands across the country, and their best work is done one-on-one, addressing the fears of the women who come to them and providing them with resources to address their needs. Here in Indiana, the Women's Care Center locations have a phenomenal success rate: Over 90% of the women they assist carry to term. And contrary to what is often said about these organizations, the assistance doesn't cease when the babies are born; mothers (and fathers) are connected to networks of support to aid them as they raise their babies and other children.

By contrast, abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood attempt to address women's fears by couching their services in the blandest and most soothing of terms. But there is a history of deep deception on the "pro-choice" side that calls their motivation into question.

For decades, abortion activists have referred to the unborn child in utero as "a blob of tissue," "a clump of cells," "products of conception" or "uterine contents." Modern technology such as ultrasound has exposed those statements as falsehoods, showing the humanity -- and complexity -- of the developing unborn child. Other medical advances, including fetal surgery and neonatal care for premature babies, have pushed the age of viability earlier than what was once thought possible -- and have created the truly surreal situation where a premature infant can be struggling to survive in one hospital with the best that modern medicine can provide while across town an unborn baby at the same gestational age can be aborted and -- if it survives the abortion attempt -- left to die. (The state of New York just passed legislation codifying the legality of abortion throughout all three trimesters of pregnancy, to cheers and applause in the Legislature.)

Abortion rights supporters characterize their position as "pro-choice," but it's shocking the extent to which they will go to keep women from fully understanding the options they have -- and the truth about the "choice" that Planned Parenthood and others promote.

For example, America has plenty of laws mandating full disclosure about the risks and implications of even the simplest surgical procedures. But when states attempt to pass laws requiring that abortion providers disclose detailed information to women seeking abortion or mandate prior ultrasounds, the pro-choice side goes up in arms. It is as if they don't want the women to know what they're doing.

The same could be said about the efforts to give the film "Unplanned" as little promotion as possible. Abby Johnson left the abortion industry when she learned the truth about abortion. She is determined to bring that message to Americans. Judging from the initial success of the film, Americans are eager to know the truth.

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