Abby Johnson, left, is seen on the set of the movie Unplanned with actress Ashley Bratcher, who plays her. The movie details the story of Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood administrator who quit that job to join the pro-life movement after her up-close interaction with abortion. CNS photo/courtesy Unplanned

U.S. pro-lifer Abby Johnson eyes Canadian expansion

By  Andrew Ehrkamp, Canadian Catholic News
  • July 4, 2019

EDMONTON -- Prominent U.S. pro-life activist and speaker Abby Johnson is planning to open a Canadian chapter of her ministry which encourages and helps abortion clinic workers to leave that industry.

The announcement came a little over a week before the July 12 Canadian release of Unplanned, the controversial movie based on the life of Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic worker.

“We are moving forward to start draining abortion facilities and hospitals in Canada of your abortion workers, and getting them on the path to healing and getting them into a relationship with Christ,” Johnson said during a July 2 webinar with supporters.

“People were really excited to have the film there,” Johnson said. “I think people in Canada … their pro-life voices are absolutely being silenced. Bringing Unplanned to Canada was sort of a way for them to feel like they’re getting their power back. They’re getting their voice back.”

“They’re going to be able to tell people ‘Look, this is what the abortion industry is about.’”

After leaving Planned Parenthood, Johnson founded And Then There Were None, a ministry designed to help abortion clinic workers to transition out of the industry. It says it has assisted over 430 workers in leaving the industry.

Johnson said the paperwork has been filed to start a Canadian chapter.

Unplanned, the movie based on Johnson’s life, will be released nationally on July 12. It premiered in the U.S. at the end of March and has earned more that $18 million at the box office.

In Canada, the movie has been controversial since an estimated 2,800 people attended the largest public screening to date on May 14 at the Edmonton Expo Centre, hosted by Harvest Ministries International. The producers say Unplanned has had to overcome a lack of theatre promotion and distribution, and a boycott threat. The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada called it a “dangerous piece of anti-abortion propaganda.”

The film has received a 14A rating in Ontario and Alberta — with a disturbing content warning — while it has been given a PG rating in other provinces with a warning that it’s not recommended for children. More than 40 theatres across Canada have been confirmed to show the film, according to the Unplanned website (unplannedfilm.com), including Landmark and Cineplex theatres.

Johnson encourages everyone — regardless of their views on abortion — to watch. “It’s not just for pro-lifers, it’s for anyone. Because abortion isn’t just a religious issue. It’s not just an issue for conservatives. This is a human rights violation,” Johnson said.

Since 1988, Canada has had no law prohibiting abortion at any stage of pregnancy. There were 94,030 reported abortions across Canada in 2017, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. In the last decade, the highest number reported in any year was 108,844, in 2011.

Pro-life advocate Ruth Shaw encourages young Canadians in particular to see the film.

“Our country has really bought into very strong language about choice and abortion,” said Shaw, the executive director of the National Campus Life Network.

“They just have these automatic thoughts and ideas about abortion that go largely unchallenged. I wanted to see young people challenged on abortion through this movie, and I think they need to be.”

Supporters anticipate there may be demonstrations outside the theatres, but they welcome that.

“Let’s not back down. If you see a crowd outside of a theatre, all the more the reason to go,” said Faytene Grasseschi, a pro-life advocate and television host in Ontario.

(Grandin Media)

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