Activists criticize Canadian cinema for an anti-abortion movie


'Cineplex Entertainment' was criticized for its "Unplanned" movie, which is said to spread lies about reproductive health.


Canadian abortion rights advocates have accused the country's biggest film chain of hiding behind freedom of expression laws to present a controversial anti-choice American film described as "anti-abortion propaganda."


The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) stated that Cineplex Entertainment had made a decision based on money rather than freedom of expression by choosing the "Unplanned" movie.

"The cinemas that agree to this film under the guise of freedom of expression legitimize anti-choice views," said executive director Joyce Arthur.

"Why does it seem that a lot of civil society thinks it's still good to let the general challenges of women's rights in the name of freedom of expression be tolerated if it is, for example, an excellent white supremacist film," she told The Guardian newspaper.

Her comments came after the CEO of Cineplex Entertainment defended his decision to examine the movie "Unplanned," a film based on memoirs by Abby Johnson, former director of the Texas Family Planning Clinic, which has become a leading anti-abortion activist.


The family planning organization said the film contained "many lies." Jordan Hoffman, the film critic of The Guardian, described the film as "a big mess" before it was released in March in the United States, while Variety called it a "troubling horror movie."

In an open letter released Monday, Elise Jacob, the company's president, said he made the decision to show the film across Canada after receiving messages and calls on "both sides of the conversation."

"Canada is a country that believes in freedom of expression and wins it, but it is not always easy, and it certainly does not make you famous," Jacob wrote.

He said the decision was complex and not underestimated, and Canadians have the option of not watching the film.


The film "Unplanned" will be screened for one week at 14 Cineplex cinemas in Canada, starting July 12. It will also be shown in a handful of other theaters.


The film struggled for several months to find a Canadian distributor. BJ McCliffe, a New Brunswick patron who also serves as president of CenDiCom, said he had addressed the issue after hearing a message from God urging him to distribute it himself.


Abortion has been legal in Canada since 1988, after Dr. Henry Morgenthaler successfully petitioned the Supreme Court of the country to rule that the abortion law was unconstitutional.


However, anti-abortion sentiment is increasing in Canada. Last year, McClellan Ann Kingston described the return of the anti-abortion movement in Canada, noting that many anti-abortion political groups have close ties to their American counterparts.


A number of prominent politicians and Canadians have expressed their opposition to Cineplex’s decision on social media. Jord Perks, a member of the Toronto City Council, raised a warning from Jacob against censorship. "It was not censored if it did not involve work by the state," he said with a tweet. Cineplex is very happy to try to mislead people to defend their decision to show this film."


Arthur said she feared an investigation of the movie "Unplanned" would provoke hatred and violence against Canadian abortion providers. "I know that clinics and sexual health centers in Canada are very concerned about the film," she said, adding that they were basically preparing for a wave of hatred.


Source: The Guardian