Abby Johnson on What It’s Like Seeing Your Life on Screen

Going to the movies is a nice little escape from everyday life. You grab your popcorn, the lights go down, and you get to spend a few hours entering into the story. But what if the movie you’re watching is the story of your own life? That’s what Abby Johnson experienced recently with the release of the film Unplanned, which tells of her journey from Planned Parenthood clinic director to pro-life advocate.

Abby stopped by A Closer Look™ this week to talk with host Sheila Liaugminas about what it was like to watch the story of her life unfold on the big screen.

Speaking to Sheila about seeing her past, the good and the bad, played out for millions of people on screen, Abby said, “It’s always interesting when you have lived through something and then you go back to your past and sort of relive that. But in a way it’s also healing. It’s just a reminder that we’re redeemed. That we’re new. That we’re forgiven. And that our past doesn’t define who we are today.”

One of the reasons the thought of someone making a movie about your life can be so scary is that it requires a great deal of vulnerability. When asked why Abby wanted to make her story into a film, she said, “I didn’t. I just thought that I had shared enough. I go around speaking, I’ve written two books, I’ve done and I’ve shared enough. I didn’t want to be any more vulnerable than I already had been. And I just really wasn’t interested in it.”

“But when I got the e-mail from Chuck and Cary, I didn’t know who they were. And I just thought, I don’t know if this is what I want to do. But they actually flew to Austin to meet me, my family, my parents, and people who are involved in my story. And they are two of the most prayerful people I know. I knew that they had really prayed about this decision. I just really felt at peace with them. And they promised me that they would honor my story and my experiences, and I believed them.”

Abby shared that despite the push-back, the insults, and the angry messages she has received, it has been worth it for the impact Unplanned has had on so many people.

“I’m waking up every day to people who walked into the film pro-choice and walked out pro-life,” she said. “And honestly, I think the vitriol we are seeing on social media from pro-choicers, people who support abortion, I think is really telling. It’s sort of like, what are you afraid of? I think people were not expecting the support and the box office numbers that the film has had, and I think they’re feeling very threatened by that.”

But, of course, it’s not just Abby who was watching her story unfold on screen. Her family, particularly her husband Doug, is an important part of the film, and they also watched their lives and their stories told.

Abby shared that the experience of watching the film with her daughter, Grace, was particularly powerful. She said, “With my daughter it was a little different for her, because what was actually really emotional for her was the part in the film when I found out I’m pregnant with Grace. And my boss says, ‘We can take care of that for you.’ And then I basically have to talk to my boss and basically defend Grace’s life against abortion to my boss.”

“After the film, I asked her, ‘What struck you the most?’ And she said ‘I just felt really thankful.’ She said because she just never realized how easy it is for women to have abortions. And it’s just so easy for them. So that was really powerful for her.”

Unplanned is currently playing in theaters nationwide, and is opening in an additional 600 theaters this week. Check your local theaters for show times and listen to the full conversation with Abby Johnson below:

A Closer Look airs weekdays at 6:00 p.m. Eastern/3:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio® and the Relevant Radio App.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.