When I was in middle school, I stood beside my mother on a small-town sidewalk, holding a white-painted sign that said, “We love babies. Let them live.” In high school, I wore a T-shirt to class that read, “Babies, things we throw away?” and gave a persuasive speech on why I believed that abortion was wrong. As a newlywed, I held my husband’s hand outside my state capitol and prayed with others to end the systematic, widespread use of abortion.
Having grown up in the church, I believed what I’d learned in Sunday school: that people are made in God’s image; that God knows us and has a plan for our lives before we are even born; and that God alone holds the power over life and death. I still believe that, but then I discovered that roughly half of all women who’ve had an abortion are also churchgoers, many of whom plausibly believe the same things that I do. Yet, the number of women choosing abortion remains roughly equal among those inside and outside of the church, with an estimated one-third of US women having had an abortion by the time they turn 45.
In one way or another, this issue touches us all through the lives of our mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, selves. Yet, the vitriol between those on both sides of the abortion debate has never been greater – with angry marches, accusations and political alliances. Into this fray comes a new movie, Unplanned, the true story of a Planned Parenthood director, Abby Johnson, who quit her job after watching an ultrasound of an abortion and joined the pro-life movement.
Through a close friend, I happen to know the family of Chuck Konzelman, who wrote, directed and produced the movie with his California business partner Cary Solomon. Konzelman’s family has local Maine roots, having owned and operated a well-loved Phippsburg campground for decades. This is not Konzelman and Solomon’s first foray into culturally charged movies. Among others, the duo also wrote the scripts for the hit God’s Not Dead and its sequel. But this may be their most controversial movie, which earned an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America for its depiction of an abortion.
Indeed, it’s not an image I want to see, and yet, according to the National Abortion Federation, 1.3 million abortions are performed in American each year – that’s roughly 19 percent of all pregnancies, or one in five. I mention this not to try to convince anyone that abortion is right or wrong, but to point out how common the experience is among us.
“No matter which side you come down on, there’s a big chunk of this movie that will make you uncomfortable, because Abby has been pro-choice and pro-life,” Konzelman was quoted as saying by the website The Hollywood Reporter.
So if you see the movie, which releases March 29, do so with a heart to better understand those who’ve suffered on both sides of this issue. And let us seek to love ourselves, our sisters and our children more deeply – no matter which side of the debate you find yourself on.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. The Backward Easter Egg Hunt, the second book in her Lantern Hill Farm children’s picture-book series, is available now. Connect at www.meadowrue.com