This Pro-Life Film Is Rated ‘R’ for All the Right Reasons

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After their upcoming movie about abortion received an R rating, its creators spoke about that decision’s irony. Unplanned, set to release March 29, follows the real-life journey of Abby Johnson, a Planned Parenthood clinic director who became a pro-life activist.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) tagged the Pure Flix Entertainment film with an R due to “some disturbing/bloody images,” saying that would stand unless abortion scenes were changed or deleted. Pure Flix, known for movies such as God’s Not Dead and The Case for Christ, has never received an R rating and had been aiming for PG-13 with Unplanned. But the directors say they won’t make changes or challenge the designation. In fact, they contend that the unexpected rating proves the film’s point and may have positive consequences.

Rating Reveals the Violence of Abortion, Directors Say

Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, who wrote and directed Unplanned, say the film “has no MPAA cautions for profanity, nudity, sex or violence…except for violence directly associated with the abortion process. Ironically, the MPAA seems to be indirectly endorsing the pro-life position: namely that abortion is an act of violence.”

“Even more ironically,” they add, “as a result of the MPAA’s decision to give us a ‘Restricted’ rating, many teenage women in this country who can legally obtain an actual abortion without parental permission will be prohibited from going to see our film containing simulated images of abortion, without obtaining parental permission.”

Because an R rating requires moviegoers under 17 to be accompanied by an adult, the directors say that label may be “all for the best.” They note, “As the wife of our lead film attorney put it: ‘This is a movie that every mother of a teenage girl needs to take her daughter by the hand and go see with her.’ So as far as we’re concerned, ‘R’ means ‘Recommended.’”

According to an MPAA spokesperson, the rating isn’t politically motivated but was determined by a board of about 10 people, “all of whom have children.” But director Solomon notes, “It was clear that any meaningful treatment of the issue (of abortion) was going to be objectionable.”

Subject Says Film Reveals “the truth”

Johnson, who’s previously been sued by Planned Parenthood, says, “We are pushing the boundaries…by showing America exactly what abortion is—and abortion is disturbing. It’s violent.” Noting that the 2004 film The Passion of the Christ also was rated R, Johnson says the label “isn’t going to slow this movie down.” She adds, “I believe people are ready for the truth.”

One scene in Unplanned that the MPAA objected to shows a doctor staring at a screen during an in-progress abortion. The person being portrayed, Dr. Anthony Levatino, calls the scene “very accurate.” He says, “It’s disturbing if you recognize it’s a human life.”

Director Konzelman says the film’s timing is “for such a time as this,” referring to recent late-term abortion legislation. “We couldn’t have foreseen the rapid developments that are suddenly coming to a head,” he says, “but we serve a God who could, and did.”

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Stephanie Martin
Stephanie Martin, a freelance journalist, has worked in Christian publishing for 26 years. She’s active at her church in Lakewood, Colorado, where she lives with her husband and two teenage daughters.