Actress Ashley Bratcher hailed Friday’s passage of the “heartbeat bill,” outlawing most abortions in Georgia at the point where a doctor is able to detect a fetal heartbeat. It now heads to the desk of Gov. Brian Kemp, who has signaled his support.
“Yes, there are a lot of celebrities with opinions,” Bratcher said of the letter opposing the legislation signed by 40 artists including Alec Baldwin, Mia Farrow and Rosie O’Donnell. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt the industry in Georgia. Georgia has the best tax incentives in the nation. That’s why productions are in Georgia. They want to save money.”
She didn’t personally have a very strong position on abortion before starting work last year on “Unplanned,” in theaters today.
“I was actually kind of pro choice. I was thinking, ‘well I’d never have an abortion,’ but I didn’t really have a stance,” she said. “I was blinded by the excellent campaigning by Planned Parenthood that it’s just a clump of cells.”
In the movie, she portrays Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who’d had two abortions before witnessing one performed at 13 weeks. The movie is based on Johnson’s memoir by the same name, in which she describes watching the procedure.
“For the briefest moment, the baby looked as if it were being wrung like a dishcloth, twirled and squeezed,” she wrote. “And then it crumpled and began disappearing into the cannula before my eyes. The last thing I saw was the tiny, perfectly formed backbone sucked into the tube, and then it was gone.”
Johnson quit her job shortly thereafter and began volunteering with the Coalition for Life.
Bratcher also had a change of heart while working on the movie, which filmed in Oklahoma. Bratcher’s mother revealed during a phone call that she’d elected to have an abortion while pregnant with her, then changed her mind at the last moment.
“She had shared with me that when she was younger she’d had an abortion. I didn’t want her to think I was being judgmental” by taking on the role of Abby Johnson, Bratcher said. “She said, ‘When I was 19, I was in the clinic for the second time. I was on the table. I knew I couldn’t go through with it. I walked out, and I chose to have you.’”
That phone call with her mom, with whom she’s had a rocky relationship, happened just as she was starting work on the film.
“I had no idea,” Bratcher said. “It completely blew my mind to think I was telling Abby Johnson’s story, never knowing I had my own. Within minutes, I could never have existed.”
Bratcher’s mom, who isn’t speaking publicly, has a cameo role in “Unplanned,” during a “rose ceremony.”
“We’ve really respected her and protected her privacy,” Bratcher said. “I think my mom is still processing her abortion.”
Here is the “Unplanned” trailer:
“This film really changed my life,” said Bratcher, who previously appeared in the faith-based film “90 Minutes in Heaven,” which was shot in metro Atlanta. “I thought oh my gosh I’ve been so blind. That ridiculous statement, if you don’t like abortion, don’t have an abortion, is like saying, if you don’t like slavery don’t have a slave. We have to stand up and give a voice to the most vulnerable.”
Her movie hitting theaters the day Georgia lawmakers passed HB 481 seemed like divine timing, but she was sad to hear of the heated debate filling the halls of the Georgia State Capitol.
“We need more compassion. We need to serve women better,” Bratcher said. “I don’t know of anyone who walks into an abortion clinic and says, I’m so excited to have this abortion. I challenge people who are pro choice to see the film. This is also a challenging film for pro lifers. It’s a call to action. Are you doing enough?”
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