Abortion takes spotlight at premiere Abortion takes spotlight at premiere

By Kediesha Perry
Observer writer

Saturday, May 25, 2019

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Though it made its Jamaican debut on Wednesday, there are already big plans for the American movie Unplanned.

According to Father Richard Ho Lung, head of the Missionaries of the Poor, the film will open in theatres next Wednesday. He said he and Douglas Graham, principal of Palace Amusement — Jamaica's sole motion picture exhibitor and distributor — came to an agreement earlier this week.

“I was told that. He (Graham) said that he was hesitant because so many of the scenes were not so nice, and he said he was disturbed by it. I said: 'You need to know where we are now, in terms of pro-choice, that 24,000 women last year in Jamaica committed abortion. You don't know how hurt they are and how guilty they are and distraught... little girls are confused. You don't know the effects of it.' He said: 'I didn't know it was so bad in Jamaica'. Maybe it won't be commercially successful, but it's important for Jamaica to see it and so he said that he would show it,” Ho Lung told the Jamaica Observer.

Unplanned premiered on Wednesday evening at the Courtleigh Auditorium in New Kingston.

Missionaries for the Poor are a band of Roman Catholic brothers and sisters dedicated to serving the less fortunate.

Ho Lung said he and his team are doing their part to lessen abortions in the island.

“We have a home called Holy Innocents, where women come to us. So far, it has been well over 500 who were thinking of abortion and we take in the mothers…the babies. The mothers can stay as long as they want to, they can leave the babies behind or they can take the babies after they have had the child. The Superior there, Joanne, she's a nurse and so forth, but they stay there and it's free of cost,” he explained.

Abortion was made illegal in Jamaica under sections 72 and 73 of the 1864 Offences Against the Person Act. Women and their doctors can be charged with felonious assault for procuring or facilitating an abortion, and they can be imprisoned for life if they are found guilty. However, statistics show that 10 per cent of pregnancies in Jamaica are aborted.

Also in attendance at the premiere were Dr Alveda King, niece of the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr; and Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life and co-founder of Silent No More Awareness Campaign. Producer of Unplanned, Michael Manhardt, was also presence.

Produced by independent company Soli Deo Gloria, Unplanned was released in the United States on March 29. It follows the true story of Abby Johnson, former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas.

In 2011, Johnson and author Cindy Lambert wrote a book of the same title. Johnson's story chronicles her transition to Planned Parenthood and her departure eight years later. The R-rated drama shows why an abortion industry insider reversed her stance on this controversial topic.

It stars Ashley Bratcher, Emma Ella Roberts, Robia Scott, and Brooks Ryan.

Unplanned has, so far, grossed US18-m at the box office.

The producer dubbed the Jamaican premiere as a success.

“The turnout is phenomenal. I mean this is a 407-seater and it was an absolutely sold-out theatre, so thank God,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

He highlighted the difference between the Jamaican premiere and the United States.

“It was different in the sense that it was planned a month in advance, we had 900 people come to Hollywood Boulevard where all movies want to have their premieres. We had a lot of VIPs and stuff like that, but it was different in the sense that there was a seriousness here tonight where people will know that they are potentially looking to make abortion legal. In the States, we've been fighting against abortion since 1973, but in Jamaica we are now facing it,” he said.

Attendee Dadre Verley described the movie as “very important”.

“It was very good! If we want to reduce abortion, that would be good because for me, I used to say in the case of rape and incest I probably would consider, but it's an additional trauma that would be placed on the woman,” she said.

The film is currently banned in Canada, however, there is a petition to remove it.

“Canada is the only country we're having problems with, but there are 34 other countries that are saying: 'Bring it here, bring it here',” Manhardt added.

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