Terrace residents disappointed over the screening of the controversial anti-abortion film Unplanned organized a protest outside the R.E.M. Lee Theatre on Friday night.
Terrace residents from the pro-life group Terrace Pro-Life Education Society rented out the R.E.M. Lee Theatre on the evening of Sept. 20 to show the American film. Across the street, approximately 20 protesters gathered with signs reading ‘Education not alienation’ and ‘Ugh..where do I even start?’
Unplanned tells the story of Abby Johnson, a real-life clinical director for Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization providing reproductive health care in the U.S., who became a pro-life activist after watching an abortion.
“I think this screening is providing a very one-sided, and factually wrong, depiction of abortion and the women involved. It’s not that abortion is always going to be a middle-class white girl that has her family’s support and is just choosing this because she doesn’t want to miss out on her prom,” says protester Danna Haworth.
“There are way bigger issues than that.You can’t say that it’s the same for someone who is 15 years old and raped by their uncle and has no family support. [We’re here] to provide information for the younger groups of people that are here who are being provided misinformation.”
The film has received a 42 per cent rating on the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes and has been called “a piece of hate propaganda” against women and abortion providers by Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.
According to the Unplanned website, the movie is showing in 56 theatres in Canada. There were 231 tickets sold for the screening and 201 people attended in Terrace.
Lori Straw from the Pro-Life Education Society helped bring the film to Terrace. She says it could help start a conversation about lesser-known experiences with abortion to the general public.
“We are one of three countries in the world that don’t have an abortion law,” Straw says. “While the majority of abortions happen in the earlier stages of life, abortion can legally take place anytime up until birth in Canada because we don’t have a law to protect these pre-born babies. [Approximately] 100,000 babies do die from abortion in Canada.”
In Canada, abortion is legal at all stages of pregnancy and is governed and funded by the Canada Health Act. Approximately 94,030 abortions were done in Canada in 2017, according to the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.
When asked why she thought women decided to have abortions, Straw says there may be a multitude of reasons.
“Lack of support — they end up in a situation where they don’t know what to do and that’s a quick fix. But often what they’re not told is that they now have to live with this, and there has to be healing and moving on from that. It’s the dirty secret under the rug — how do you ever get past it, how do you heal?
“This film is not trying to take away the reproductive rights of women, it’s not slamming them and saying they’re terrible people. It’s trying to lift them up.”
When asked about the factual credibility of Unplanned, Straw says in 2017 that Planned Parenthood made “millions of dollars” off abortion in America. She also referenced an article written by former abortionist Kathi Aultman who says Johnston’s experience aligned with many cases reviewed in the U.S.
Planned Parenthood did receive approximately $500 million in funding a year from the federal government, however in August the non-profit announced it would drop federal funding for a program which pays for family planning services for low-income Americans over the Trump administration’s rule blocking the reproductive rights organization from talking to patients about abortion services.
According to a Planned Parenthood annual report in 2017, abortions make up 3.4 per cent of the medical services they offer. Testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections comprise 48.7 per cent of care services.
“This is an American film that goes through a lot of trouble to demonize Planned Parenthood using falsehoods that are well known to be untrue,” says resident Amber Zanon, who voiced opposition to the screening last week.
In one scene depicting abortion, the 13-week old fetus is described as wriggling away from the suction and “fighting for its life,” as shown in the film’s trailer.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a fetus does not have the physiological capacity to perceive pain until at least 24 weeks of gestation.
Zanon also noted the film’s primarily white cast and scenes that seem to condone violence against abortion providers.
When she heard the film would be screened in Terrace, Zanon decided to use the event to raise money for Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights. As of Monday, around $1,400 was raised through online donations in direct response to the Terrace screening.
Jessica Falardeau, 18, had a ticket for the screening and spoke to protesters and organizers. She says she watched the film to see both sides of the argument.
“Personally I believe that I think women still should have a choice because we’ll end up going backwards, back to doing illegal abortions,” Falardeau says. “But I’m open to it, I’m open to seeing why they’re saying take away the choice, and why we should have a choice.”