The movie Unplanned has been gaining national attention recently despite the narrow publicity from Fox and the Christian Broadcasting Network.


Planned Parenthood's response to the film was that it made arguments that were false:

"The claims in this film are simply false. Planned Parenthood is proud to provide expert, high-quality health care to our patients, including safe and legal abortion, in a safe and compassionate environment. The movie promotes many falsehoods including most importantly, distortions and incorrect depictions about healthcare."

It cites a general claim that Unplanned misrepresents healthcare, lumping abortion into that category. The question is specifically about the second part of Planned Parenthood's statement. The only other specific falsehood claimed by Planned Parenthood itself that I could find was:

  1. The Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas has stated that Johnson's claim of aborting a black Woman's 13 week old fetus on September 26th, as the catalyst for resigning from Planned Parenthood was wrong and that the only patient that was black on September 26th aborted a 6-week old fetus.

Below is another falsehood that applies to Planned Parenthood, but not (as I understand) one of the falsehoods that Planned Parenthood itself has asserted:

  1. At a September 20, 2009 KEOS interview, Abby Johnson made a statement that called into question hear claim that she was told to increase abortions for financial reasons:

PP is a Medicaid provider. First off, PP is divided up into separate corporations. So, there is a Planned Parenthood 501c3 non profit that is a family planning corporation. Also, there is a PP surgical services corporation that is our abortion and vasectomy services. They are totally separate corporations. The surgical services corporation, regardless of what you might hear, receives no government funding – all private donations. And then almost two years ago we received about 30 million dollars in an anonymous donation from a foundation to help women receive abortion services where money was a barrier.


What other specific arguments in the film Unplanned were asserted as false by Planned Parenthood that prompted its response to the film?

  • 5
    Is this suitable for the site? This site is meant for you to (1) Show a claim and (2) Display skepticism of the veracity of the claim and not to look for claims. Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 2:43
  • @Barry Harrison FWIW, Planned Parenthood's claim is that Unplanned made false claims. My interpretation of skepticism of veracity of Planned Parenthood's claim was, as you stated, looking for false claims. I can see where the grey area arises.
    – isakbob
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 2:56
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    As written, Planned Parenthood's claim is trivially false. There must be at least one claim in the movie that is true (e.g. the person who claims to have worked at Planned Parenthood really worked there). Which suggests to me that the quoted statement is hyperbolic and not meant to be read literally. It's not an appropriate claim to examine. Now, if you want to examine one of the specific statements that they call out as false, that would be on topic. As is, this is the wrong stack for this question. And Stack Exchange may be the wrong venue (you're asking for a list response).
    – Brythan
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 7:42
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    @Brythan I don't interpret Planned Parenthood as intending that to mean "all the information in this film is false". It's poorly worded, but later in their quote they say "The movie promotes many falsehoods", which is presumably what they meant when they said "the claims in this film are simply false".
    – JMac
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 12:44
  • 1
    @Brythan. I am aware that Stack Exchange is the wrong venue for list questions, I even had hesitancy posting this claim. But save for the claim in point #1, these are Planned Parenthood's words. I wanted to find out more about the "many" part of the statement. Thus the question is more about the second part of their statement rather than the first. I wish Planned Parenthood elaborated which falsehoods they were referring to when releasing that statement. That would certainly make asking about this easier.
    – isakbob
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 0:35

1 Answer 1


I'm not going to attempt to parse the Planned Parenthood statement, but there are plenty of sources that point out many critical factual inaccuracies in the movie.

The main problem is:

  • The purportedly true story told by Abby Johnson has been largely debunked.

Abby Johnson has been gaining notoriety in anti-abortion circles for many years, but the story she tells (that this movies is based on) doesn't appear to be true. From 'Unplanned' Anti-Abortion Movie Peddles Anti-Choice Lies:

Much of Johnson’s story is suspect. She claims that the abortion which changed her mind was of a black woman who was 13 weeks pregnant. Clinic records indicate that the only abortion that could match Johnson’s description occurred at 6 weeks—a time when it would be impossible for a developing embryo to noticeably move, let alone “struggle.” Moreover, doctors don’t typically use ultrasounds to guide abortion at such an early stage, so it’s unlikely that Johnson could have witnessed anything at all.

A Texas Monthly investigation found that Johnson’s Facebook postings around the time of her departure suggest a frustrated and disgruntled employee—not one who was questioning the morality of her work. After leaving her job, she emphasized on Facebook how committed she was to her work. Her resignation letter to Planned Parenthood raises no ethical issues, mentions no change of heart.

There is little evidence to support Johnson’s story. There’s also plenty of reason for Johnson to lie, given that an abortion change of heart story is a fast route to fame, notoriety, and potentially money on the far right.

Here is the 2010 Texas Monthly article referenced above that contains a much deeper critical analysis of Johnson's story.

Regarding the medical and business details, the Huffington Post talked to Michigan OB-GYN and abortion provider Jen Villavicencio, who identified a number of other inaccuracies:

  • The movie unrealistically depicts a 13-week fetus struggling against an abortion

There have been questions raised about whether this abortion even took place. But in any case, Villavicencio, who performs similar abortions, said the scene is wildly unrealistic. At that gestational age, fetuses do not have purposeful movements, she said.

“The idea that a fetus would recoil or show fear or try to run away from a cannula [medical tube] is really a frank falsehood,” she said. “All the evidence says that is not possible.”

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.

  • Planned Parenthood is falsely depicted as a for-profit abortion business.

Abby boasts about how good she got at “selling abortions,” comparing her job to that of a salesman hawking timeshares. Women are frequently shown handing over money. In one scene, Abby’s boss, Cheryl (Robia Scott), the clear villain of the movie, tells Abby she needs to double the abortions her clinic provides so they can make more money.

Planned Parenthood disputed this characterization in a statement to HuffPost, noting that it is a nonprofit that provides sexual and reproductive health care to millions of people across the country each year, many in underserved communities. The organization offers a wide breadth of services, including cancer screening, contraception and STD testing and treatment. Abortion makes up only 3.4 percent of its services, according to its most recent annual report.

“This idea that we would drum up business is silly,” Villavicencio said. “That’s not a thing. Abortion has existed since we knew what pregnancy was, and it will not go away.”

  • Abortions are sensationalized like a horror movie

While everyone’s abortion is different, “Unplanned” presents the experience as an excruciatingly painful one. Women are seen crying out while insensitive doctors and nurses bark at them and hold them down. Blood ― pooling in socks, dripping on floors ― is a central motif.

The movie gives an inaccurate and fearmongering depiction of the procedure, Villavicencio said.

  • Abortion is inaccurately depicted as extremely dangerous

In “Unplanned,” a doctor accidentally perforates a teen girl’s uterus while performing an abortion. As the girl goes into shock, the clinic workers decide not to call an ambulance because they’re afraid of bad publicity. Instead, they lie to her father and give her drugs so she won’t remember what happened.

In reality, serious complications during abortion are rare, and occur less frequently than during childbirth. In 2013, a total of 664,435 abortions were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only four women died as a result of complications that year.

“Abortion is one of the safest outpatient procedures that you can have in the U.S.,” Villavicencio said. “You are less likely to have a complication than a colonoscopy or a wisdom tooth extraction.”

She said it was comically offensive to suggest that an abortion clinic would jeopardize a patient’s safety by refusing to call an ambulance during a medical emergency.

  • Abortion clinicians are portrayed as villains and monsters

The abortion providers and staff in “Unplanned” are depicted as uncaring and inhumane. They crack jokes about dead babies, ignore patients who are visibly in pain and seem to lack even the most basic social manners....

Villavicencio said she has had the opposite experience working at abortion clinics.

“OB-GYNs and family medicine doctors who do abortions are some of the most compassionate, empathetic people I’ve ever met,” she said. “They put themselves through discomfort ― walking through protesters, getting threats, having sometimes the disdain of their own medical community ― in order to provide this care.”

Other sources:

  • 5
    Regarding your main point, Abby Johnson has provided a detailed rebuttal to the claim that her story is false, focusing particularly on the Texas Monthly story (which many later stories cite). Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 0:08
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    Also, I'm not sure that the claim "Abortion clinicians are portrayed as villains and monsters" (and to a lesser extent, the horror claim) can be declared "simply false" by saying that Villavicencio has worked with nice people at abortion clinics. Setting aside the fact that every movie dramatizes things, Planned Parenthood is a national organization and it's entirely possible that the clinics Villavicencio worked at had nice people and the clinics Johnson worked at had mean people. Heck, I've seen that within the different offices in my own organization! Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 0:33

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