Content warning: paragraph five of this article describes complications to abortion procedures, as they are depicted in the film.
It’s one of the most controversial films of the year — called “a disgusting piece of propaganda” by a Globe and Mail review and bringing church groups out in droves, despite it’s R rating — and this Thursday, King’s campus ministry will be hosting a free screening.
Unplanned is an anti-abortion film based on the the memoirs of Abby Johnson, tracking her conversion from Planned Parenthood director to a pro-life advocate. The film was shown at 56 theatres across Canada this summer, and was often met with protests.
King’s University College has said it hopes showing the controversial film will spark debate among their students — which is a noble goal — but showing Unplanned is not the way to do this. This film has no place on a university campus.
Since its release in March, Unplanned has been called out by numerous healthcare providers for its inaccurate portrayals of medical abortions and the healthcare system.
One highly-critiqued scene depicts a 13-week-old fetus seemingly fighting against a suction machine during an abortion procedure, something experts say it would not have the physical or cognitive abilities to do until far into the second trimester. In another, Johnson's boss at Planned Parenthood reminds her “abortion is what pays for your salary,” when in reality only 15 to 37 percent of Planned Parenthood's non-government health services revenue comes from their abortion-related services.
While there is room for respectful debate about abortion on campus, that kind of debate is not going to come from watching Unplanned. Even if there is value in debating abortion, there is no debate over the simplest facts of pregnancy and gestation that escape the film's shallow reach.
If King's is interested in sparking conversation, there are more productive ways to go about it. Hosting panels of speakers, or even showing two films, are both equitable ways King’s could be engaging the community in intelligent discourse on abortion.
We can expect that King's, as a Catholic institution, has a perspective. But we also expect that King's, as a university-affiliate, holds itself to a higher standard than this film meets.