Actress Ashley Bratcher shares emotional story of how God touched her soul during Unplanned

by Jerry Circelli

North Texas Catholic

Abby Johnson, left, speaks with Ashley Bratcher, the actress who portrays Johnson in the movie Unplanned. (courtesy photo)

Abby Johnson, the real-life main character in Unplanned, recently told the North Texas Catholic that although our pasts “may be messy,” we never know how we might use them for God’s glory.

Ashley Bratcher, the actress who portrays Johnson in the movie, experienced that realization four days into filming in April 2018.

During that time, Bratcher said her mother phoned her. After she learned of the role Bratcher was playing, her mother had a confession to make. She broke down and told her daughter that during her pregnancy, at age 19, she had considered aborting Bratcher. She said she went so far as to go into an abortion center, ready to begin the procedure.

The actress recalled the conversation: “She said, ‘Ashley, there is something I never told you before. I was in the clinic. I was examined by a nurse. I got very sick and I got up and walked out, and chose to have you.’”

“The first thing I said was, ‘Mom, I need to call you back.’

“It was just completely overwhelming,” Bratcher said. “It is difficult to process the fact that you might never have had the opportunity to live your life.”

The actress continued, “To tell you the truth, I’m still trying to process it.”

Bratcher had known previously that her mother had an abortion at age 16.

“But I never knew that about myself until after I had stepped into this role to play Abby Johnson and tell one of the greatest pro-life stories of all time.”

Throughout the filming, Bratcher carried her mother’s burden and grappled with myriad questions and feelings about what she had just learned.

“A lot of people have commented on my performance and have said, ‘How did you reach that emotional level?’

“Well, I was heartbroken, I was literally heartbroken.

“And I didn’t want to get to the place where I had to see what Johnson saw from her perspective. And I was heartbroken because I had never seen those things before.”

Bratcher was also concerned for her mother and compassionate about the hurt she had been harboring for decades.

“Some people said they thought it was cruel that my mother would tell me that. But I think it was incredibly courageous for her to tell me. I think in order to heal, you have to reveal. In confessing that to me, she was able to help me to see God’s plan for my life. It was already evident to her,” Bratcher said.

In addition to reeling from the information her mother had provided, Bratcher said the true story of Abby Johnson literally raised her spirit.

“Before I knew anything about Abby, I considered myself pro-life,” said Bratcher, adding that it was a personal conviction about herself and not what others should believe.

“I had no idea what an abortion procedure actually was,” Bratcher said. “Like the rest of America, I believed the lie that is perpetuated throughout our culture, that it was just a lump of cells.”

That all changed when Bratcher discovered Johnson’s testimony about the abortion she had witnessed.

Ashley Bratcher, in her role as Abby Johnson, assists with the ultrasound that transforms the Planned Parenthood Director into a pro-life advocate. (courtesy photo)

“When I heard about how Abby realized this was a life, when she realized this was a fully formed baby at 13 weeks and she described how it moved away from the catheter, trying to escape this thing that was trying to take its life. How it was being twisted and wrung like a dishcloth …

“It shook me to my core.

“It is such a disturbing image whether you’re seeing it with your own eyes or hearing it. It blew me away. It was painful and traumatic for me.  It was so disturbing.

“But I knew I wanted to tell this story. I wanted to be a part of letting America know what is actually happening.”

Bratcher grew emotional when asked if she thought God had a direct hand in picking her for the lead role of Abby Johnson in Unplanned.

“I am so incredibly in awe of God’s presence, of His hand in my life, and that He would take a small-town girl from North Carolina in the middle of nowhere, who grew up in a double-wide, and He would give me this platform.

“I am a nobody,” Bratcher said as she struggled to continue. “God has allowed me to tell this story and that is what overwhelms me.

“When I get emotional it’s because I feel the presence of God and His love and I feel so inadequate. But through my inadequacy that is where God’s story shines and that is what gives me the most joy — that I am doing this all for Him.

“I don’t care if anyone knows my name when this is over,” Bratcher said.

“I am just at complete peace knowing that I said, ‘Yes,’ and that I did what He called me to do and I have no fear.”

As for her relationship with her mother, Bratcher said it is strong. “My mom is going through a lot of healing and I am going through a lot of healing.”

Bratcher said that her wish is that Unplanned will not only be informative for its audience, but can also help start a healing process for those who have participated in some way in abortions and seek forgiveness.

“I hope that even after they come to terms with the guilt and shame they have carried, that they realize that there is forgiveness,” Bratcher said.  “You can never go so far as to escape the love of the Father and the forgiveness that God gives us.”

Abby Johnson, the real-life main character in Unplanned, recently told the North Texas Catholic that although our pasts “may be messy,” we never know how we might use them for God’s glory.