The fight over abortion rights in the United States has reached a fever pitch lately, with numerous restrictions and bans being proposed at the state level. On Wednesday the battle will come to Orange Coast College when the College Republicans screen the controversial pro-life film “Unplanned.”
The anti-abortion feature film will be shown at 6 p.m. in the Science Hall followed by a discussion with speakers from the Feminists for Life organization and student speakers.
Despite claims by the College Republicans that the event will serve as an extra credit opportunity for some classes, the Coast Report found no instructors confirming they will offer extra credit for students attending the event.
Flavia Ruzi, an English instructor and faculty adviser to the College Republicans, said she chose not to offer extra credit for students attending the film, explaining that there has been controversy surrounding the film’s source.
“Unplanned” is based on a book of the same name by Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee who became a pro-life activist.
“Given the controversy surrounding the figure of Abby Johnson, given the work journalists have done questioning the events that took place, questioning the narrative the film puts forth, I don’t think it would be wise for me as a professor at OCC to suggest [it] to my students,” she said.
Ruzi also fears that the apparent lack of factually correct information in the film will skew the discussion held after it is screened.
“I’m worried that the premise of the conversation that is going to unfold based on the film is flawed. At best flawed, at worst willfully false,” Ruzi said.
According to Kevin Ballinger, vice president of instruction, as a club event the “Unplanned” screening does not require approval by the administration nor do college administrators approve of any extra credit opportunities.
“The school cannot authorize extra credit. It’s up to the individual professors,” Ballinger said.
However, Alex Loniak, a 20-year-old business major and president of the College Republicans said the event has educational value despite the controversial and hyper-partisan subject matter.
“Extra credit has been given to many different events in the past that were biased, and I don’t think it’s wrong for professors to give their classes extra credit for attending a partisan event if they choose to,” Loniak said.
Loniak said he saw the film a few months ago, but not all members of the executive board have seen it.
“We all agreed to show it, because collectively we agreed with the messaging,” Loniak said.
Vi Tran, a 21-year-old computer science major and vice president of fiscal affairs for the Associated Students of Orange Coast College, said the event will be entirely self-funded and that the College Republicans requested no school funds for the screening.
Loniak expects the event to cost his club about $2,500. In addition to club money, the event is sponsored by Asian Industry B2B, an organization of business leaders committed to conservative and pro-life causes.
“We’re very supportive of proper messaging about abortion and how it effects a woman’s health,” Marc Ang, founder and current president of Asian Industry B2B said.
“Unplanned” tells the story of Abby Johnson, a one-time Planned Parenthood employee who became a pro-life activist after witnessing complications during an abortion she assisted. Released in 2019 with an R rating for graphic violence during an abortion scene, the film received major financial backing from Michael J. Lindell, the founder of MyPillow known for his vocal support of President Donald Trump.
The film has been widely criticized for its factually inaccurate depiction of an abortion performed at 13 weeks of pregnancy. Medical journals estimate that complications occur in less than .5 percent of first trimester abortions.
The film portrays Johnson witnessing a fetus suffering throughout an abortion, however fetuses are physically incapable of feeling pain before 24 weeks of development, researchers say.
With an emotionally and politically charged subject matter, the “Unplanned” event has drawn some backlash on campus with signs promoting the event vandalized or torn down. The College Republicans have filed an incident report with Campus Safety after the removal of one of the signs was caught on surveillance footage.
Several members of the College Republicans said they heard rumors of a protest by pro-choice groups at the screening. However, the Planned Parenthood Club said they are not planning on protesting the event.
Despite the potential controversy, Loniak said the club expects 150 to 200 people to attend.
Loniak said that this will likely be the last event surrounding abortion that his club hosts for a while.
“We’re not a pro-life club, we’re a Republican club. We like to mix things up with our events just for diversity of ideas sake,” Loniak said.