Pro-life activist Abby Johnson reacts to R rating for anti-abortion film: ‘We are pushing the boundaries’
Abby Johnson, the former Planned Parenthood clinical director turned pro-life activist whose story is the subject of a new controversial film, isn’t too concerned that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) gave Pure Flix’s anti-abortion film “Unplanned” an R rating.
“We are pushing the boundaries of what has never been before on such a wide scale by showing America exactly what abortion is — and abortion is disturbing. It’s violent,” the 38-year-old told Fox News in a written statement.
PURE FLIX RESPONDS TO MPAA'S R-RATING FOR ANTI-ABORTION FILM: 'R STANDS FOR RECOMMENDED'
“In my opinion, one of the most impactful films of our time is ‘The Passion of the Christ.’ It was rated R. So I feel like ‘Unplanned’ is in good company. An R rating from the MPAA isn’t going to slow this movie down. I believe people are ready for the truth.”
Pure Flix, the production and distribution company behind the film, is aiming to release “Unplanned,” on March 29. While the filmmakers were initially taken aback by MPAA’s decision, Pure Flix told Fox News they aren’t fazed by iy.
“This is why Pure Flix exists: to give a platform to these types of movies,” said Michael Scott, president of Pure Flix. “We’re proud to be associated with this film and we are confident that our fans will not stay away because of the opinions of reviewers and listen to those in the faith community who have seen the film and agree with us. In this case, R stands for recommended.”
Mike Lindell, an investor in “Unplanned,” also dismissed MPAA’s shocking rating.
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“I feel the fix is in,” he told Fox News. “Whoever rated this movie must not be watching TV or videos on social media! I have a cameo in this movie and do not appreciate the R-rating. I got involved to get a message out to everyone with this true story. What a shame that some might be blocked by an R-rating from getting the truth. I hope millions of Americans will ignore this attempt at moviegoer suppression and flood the box office on opening day.”
Johnson resigned from Planned Parenthood in 2009 before becoming a pro-life activist. The Hollywood Reporter shared that while the filmmakers were aiming for a PG-13 film, MPAA informed them that “Unplanned” will be R-rated unless all scenes of abortions were either removed or altered. However, the filmmakers are refusing to change those scenes.
“A 15 year-old-girl can get an abortion without her parent’s permission but she can’t see this movie without adult supervision? That’s sad,” Ken Rather, executive VP of distribution for Pure Flix told The Hollywood Reporter.
In response, the filmmakers fired off a letter of complaint to MPAA CEO, Charles Rivkin.
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“We consider the MPAA’s current standards to be deeply flawed, insofar as they allowed scenes of remarkably graphic sex, violence, degradation, murder and mayhem to have a PG-13 rating, whereas our film, highlighting the grave dangers of abortion in a straightforward manner, is considered dangerous for the American people to view,” wrote Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, the co-writers and co-directors of “Unplanned.”
An MPAA spokesperson said the reason for the R-rating was due to “some disturbing/bloody images” and was in no way politically motivated. They explained the process in finalizing a rating involves a board of about 10 people voting and debating until they come to a majority agreement. They insisted that the board highlights “people from all walks of life” and “all of whom have children.”
“Any film submitter who objects to the given rating can choose to go through the appeals process,” said an MPAA spokesperson about “Unplanned.” “To date, the distributor has chosen not to. Our rules provide a detailed timeline for the appeals process. There was sufficient time for it to be completed in advance of the film’s March 29 release.”
MPAA told Pure Flix the most problematic scene of “Unplanned” featured a doctor gazing at a computer screen that shows the image of a fetus as the abortion is completed. Dr. Anthony Levatino, who was portrayed in the scene, said the depiction is accurate.
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“The portrayal of a live, moving fetus disappearing is very accurate,” said Levatino, who added he performed about 1,200 abortions over the years. “You’re watching an abortion. It’s an accurate view of what’s happening. It’s disturbing if you recognize it’s a human life.”
“We have three scenes in the film which directly address abortion, and the MPAA objected to all three,” claimed Solomon. “They specifically made mention of objection to grainy, black and white sonogram images that were part of one of the scenes. It was clear that any meaningful treatment of the issue was going to be objectionable.”
This isn’t the first time MPAA gave an R-rating to a film that examined abortions. Back in 1996, MPAA gave “If These Walls Could Talk” the same rating due to “realistic depictions of abortions, a graphic shooting and some language.”
“If These Walls Could Talk,” which starred Demi Moore, Sissy Spacek and Cher, examined the controversial issue of abortion through three stories set in different eras: 1952, 1974 and 1996.
But in the case of “Unplanned,” Pure Flix and the filmmakers claimed that MPAA never mentioned “realistic depiction of abortion” as being the primary reason for the restrictive rating. They also mentioned “Unplanned” has none of the typical features that would result in an R-rating, such as profanity, drug abuse or nudity, among others.
Still, Pure Flix will not alter the film for a PG-13 rating and it won’t officially appeal the decision as it could potentially delay their distribution efforts. The Hollywood Reporter also shared that appeals are “historically a longshot.”
In 2017 alone, MPAA rated 563 films and only one of the ratings were changed out of five that were appealed. Clint Eastwood’s 2018 film “The 15:17 to Paris,” which explores the true story of how Americans discovered a terrorist plot on a Paris-bound train, originally received an R-rating. But after an appeal was made, the rating was brought down to a PG-13.
Scott said he hopes that regardless of the rating, the goal of “Unplanned” is to share a message he believes is not only vital, but one being overlooked by Hollywood.
“This story needs to be told and the message needs to be delivered,” he said. “It is our calling as Christians to tell the story about moral implications of abortion that the mainstream media refuses to acknowledge.”