Anti-abortion movie “Unplanned” has dominated headlines across the world since its U.S. release last month. The R-rated movie tells the story of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director in Texas who became a vocal anti-abortion advocate after experiencing what she claimed was a crisis of conscience.
The film was financed in part by Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO who once called Donald Trump “the greatest president in history … chosen by God”, and has received support from Vice President Mike Pence. But like many anti-abortion films before it, it propagates some particularly damaging myths; it even involves a scene of a 13-week fetus appearing to recoil from the procedure.
Still, the film seems to have found an audience. It has grossed $15.7 million since its debut last month — more than double its budget.
Stakes couldn’t be higher for the defenders of women’s rights right now, particularly in the U.S. This year, an unprecedented number of states have introduced bills to limit abortion, with Alabama trying to ban the procedure entirely and Texas trying to make it punishable by death. In Europe, tens of thousands of pro-choice campaigners marched in Verona, Italy, earlier this month to oppose an anti-abortion conference backed by the local authority and part of Italy’s coalition government. And despite a successful campaign to legalize abortion in Ireland, pro-choice advocates are still hitting a brick wall in Northern Ireland, where the procedure remains illegal — even in cases of rape or fatal foetal abnormality.
“Unplanned” is the latest anti-abortion “propaganda” to “stoke the flames” of these divisive times, according to HuffPost U.S. writer Melissa Jeltsen. She sat down with Jen Villavicencio, an OB-GYN and abortion provider in Michigan, to untangle the movie’s fiction from the facts.
“Due to the current makeup of the Supreme Court, anti-abortion lawmakers across the country are feeling reinvigorated and ready to fight,” Melissa said. “They believe now is the time to bring a case that could potentially overturn Roe v. Wade. This movie, which is filled with inaccuracies and perpetuates myths about abortion, is just another tool to get the public on their side.”
She believes the media should do more to call out the “vague terms” anti-abortion activists use to “confuse the public.”
“Democratic candidates keep being asked about ‘late-term’ abortion,” she said. “But that term doesn’t actually mean anything. Are they referring to abortions past 24 weeks? The term is misleading, as it could give the impression women are getting abortions right before birth, which does not happen.”
I hope you’ll enjoy this first edition of Her Stories from HuffPost’s London HQ. Thanks for reading.
Until next week,
For more U.S. women’s rights reporting, follow HuffPost’s Melissa Jeltsen @quasimado.
When Natasha Bishop was 13, she poured red food coloring on her underwear because she didn’t want to be “found out” as the only girl in her group of friends who hadn’t started her period. Cut to three years later: The continued absence of her monthly cycle would kickstart a journey of self-discovery that would irreparably change her worldview. HuffPost U.K.’s Rachel Moss interviewed Natasha to hear how it felt to find out she was born without a womb. Natasha’s story is one of resilience and adaptation. It speaks to the importance of doctors believing women when they say something is wrong. It unpacks the stigma of the child-free woman and asks us all to have a closer look at our too-often narrow view of womanhood.
Doctors in Canada no longer have to perform an ultrasound before prescribing Mifegymiso, also known as the “abortion pill.” Women’s health advocates say this will eliminate significant barriers to abortion access. Previously, ultrasounds were performed to determine gestational age and to check for ectopic pregnancies. But it meant women in rural areas had to travel long distances and face crippling wait times in order to access services. HuffPost Canada’s Maija Kappler spoke to Dr. Wendy Norman, a professor in the University of British Columbia’s Obstetrics and Gynecology department, who was “absolutely delighted” to hear the news. “Women have better access, and faster,” she said. “Health care practitioners across Canada have been asking for removal for this restriction.”