Reproductive rights remain a hot-button issue south of the border following Alabama’s deservedly-maligned abortion ban in May, but it appears Canada may have some protesting to do of its own as an anti-abortion film is set to hit screens across the country.
Unplanned, a film from Christian production studio Pure Flix (best known for the inexplicably high-grossing God’s Not Dead series of films), is based on anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson’s memoir of the same name, which follows her journey from director of a Planned Parenthood clinic to pro-life activist.
A number of critics dismissed the film as propaganda upon its American release back in March, and now with Unplanned set to make its Canadian debut (with New Brunswick-based production company Cinedicom securing distribution rights after navigating the many roadblocks presented by the film’s subject matter), the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada has been moved to speak up against the pro-life, anti-Planned Parenthood attitudes put forth by the film.
In a statement on the film’s impending Canadian release, the ARCC dismissed the film as “a dangerous piece of anti-abortion propaganda” that “preaches an absolutist and extreme case against abortion that has nothing to do with reality.” The statement highlighted the film’s depiction of Planned Parenthood and other providers of reproductive care as “demonic, cold-hearted monsters, their only goal to maximize profits by selling as many abortions as possible,” and that “because of the film’s demonization of abortion providers, ARCC fears the movie could incite fanatics to commit acts of harassment or violence against clinics or doctors.”
The condemnation of the film extends well beyond the ARCC’s statement, however, with a number of Canadians taking to the net to air their grievances over a film such as Unplanned and its message being screened across the country:
Disgusting. This movie attacks the rights we have as Canadians under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Correlating this propaganda film full of misinformation with a proud Canadian Holiday is disgraceful. You should be ashamed. Shame on you.
— BDuckling (@BDucklingg) July 1, 2019
@CineplexMovies are you really going to screen the propaganda movie Unplanned on your screens?? It’s a disgraceful forced birth movement movie intended to politicize a settled issue. It should not be screened in Canada. It promotes the removal of women’s rights/bodily autonomy
— DFoz (@DbFoz) June 27, 2019
This isn’t the first time Unplanned has stirred protest amongst Canadians: the film’s initial Canadian premiere, held last April on Parliament Hill by a number of Conservative politicians and pro-life activists, resulted in an outpouring of protest from both Planned Parenthood’s Ottawa chapter and politicians:
In Canada, women – and women alone – have the right to make decisions about their own bodies.
Four Conservative male MPs attended a screening of an Anti-Choice movie on Parliament Hill.
This is appalling. Our government will always stand up for a woman’s right to choose. pic.twitter.com/kQVtUf6Jqa
— Maryam Monsef (@MaryamMonsef) April 16, 2019
Though this initial controversy created obstacles for the film in securing Canadian distribution rights, it also inspired Cinedicom president, Pastor BJ McKelvie, to take matters into his own hands: “I was walking down the hall grumbling and I heard the Lord say to me, ‘Well why don’t you distribute it?’ and that was rather different,” the Pastor alleges.
Even with this public outcry ahead of the film’s release, ARCC director Joyce Arthur remains confident that given its subject matter, “this film won’t succeed in a country that respects human rights.”