News & Politics

What’s in an Abortion? 'Disturbing' and 'Bloody,' According to the MPAA

"Unplanned" trailer screenshot from YouTube.

Most Americans see abortion as morally wrong or at best a necessary evil. A minority of Americans see the procedure as a social good – as a truly empowering and liberating experience for women. One such person is Emily Letts, an actress and abortion center employee who in 2014 filmed herself enjoying the abortion of her child.

Letts’ film received international coverage, an op-ed in Cosmo, and an award. According to Letts, she wanted to destigmatize abortion. She succeeded in some circles, and her video received hundreds of thousands of views.

But abortion doesn’t need to be destigmatized. It just needs to be uncovered. And that’s just what the new movie Unplanned – released last month and based on the true conversion of former abortion center director and now pro-life advocate Abby Johnson – does. Its graphic depiction of a mother’s difficulty with the abortion pill and an unborn child’s tortured reaction to being aborted earned an “R” rating from the Motion Picture Association of America for “disturbing/bloody images”– a tacit admission that abortion is horrifying for both mother and child.

The co-writers of Unplanned aren’t pleased by the rating. They told Fox News that the MPAA’s “current standards” for an R rating are “deeply flawed.” That may be – Hollywood is hardly neutral territory for socially conservative values – but the R rating decision gives more, not less, credence to the fact that abortion harms real people.

Most important to the debate is the humanity of the unborn child. Science makes clear that a unique child is created upon fertilization. That new zygote has unique DNA, soon has a heartbeat, feels pain just a few months later, and can survive even if born more than three months early. The depiction of a child suffering through abortion – even just on a black-and-white ultrasound screen – in Unplanned is accurate, former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino told Fox.

Mothers also suffer from abortion. Unplanned shows complications from the abortion pill RU-486. Many women come to regret their abortion, and a surprising number admit to feeling or being pressured to have their abortions by men in their lives. Other women have suffered from mental illness after procuring an abortion, though whether that is directly related to abortion is still uncertain.

All of this human suffering should be opposed in a decent and moral society. The desire to end unjust killings has led many Americans to oppose the death penalty and our nation’s predilection toward war. Why is abortion any different, especially since all of its most-harmed victims are innocents?

If there is a “best” part of Unplanned and its MPAA rating, it is that the MPAA believes that parents should guide how their children process the graphic and gruesome nature of abortion. This is to its credit.

Regretfully, the abortion industry doesn’t agree. In many states, children are allowed to get abortions without their parents’ permission thanks to the industry’s lobbying and advocacy. (Abortion centers also sometimes illegally give abortions to minors, as Alabama state health officials discovered in 2014.) This is also a debate among pro-life advocates – should graphic images of abortion victims be placed in public areas where women suffering after abortion and innocent children can unintentionally see them?

In the end, social conservatives should thank the MPAA for its R rating of Unplanned. Children have no place being involved with abortion, and it is really the parents who should pass along the truth about being “pro-choice”: It’s a bad choice for any mother and no choice for the child.