Raili Burton

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — A controversial film screening and panel discussion at Winthrop University Jan. 27, regarding the sensitive subject of abortion, sparked campus debate between pro-life and pro-choice groups.

The film “Unplanned” is based on the real-life story of Abby Johnson, a former clinic director for Planned Parenthood in Texas, who becomes an anti-abortion activist after witnessing an abortion procedure at work.

The event was planned by a number of pro-life groups, including Ratio Christi at Winthrop, Students for Life, the Winthrop Newman Catholic Community and the Rock Hill-based Palmetto Women’s Center.

Brooke Larkin, southeast regional coordinator for Students for Life, spoke at the event.

“Students for Life is a national organization who works to recruit, train and mobilize the pro-life generation to abolish abortion,” said Larkin, during her introduction.

Ratio Christi, a student organization that encourages people to follow Jesus Christ, invited the pro-life speaker Clinton Wilcox from the Life Training Institute.

The Ratio Christi table at the screening of the controversial anti-abortion film “Unplanned” featured the movie poster and the group’s pamphlets (photo: Raili Burton).

Wilcox hosted a question and answer session following the film screening, which drew protests from a number of students.

Wilcox told those in attendance he wanted to educate people at the event based on his 10 years of experience.

“The responses I give are a combination of the best and most up to date science, philosophy and even theology,” Wilcox said during the Q&A.

“Unplanned” is known for its unexpected turn of events when Johnson, the central character, goes from working for Planned Parenthood for several years to advocating for pro-life in a matter of days. The film often targets Planned Parenthood and its procedures.

However, a number of people said they felt the movie is not accurate and disagreed with the groups hosting the event.

Stefi Salas, who attended the screening, said she felt the movie was “unrealistic and clearly biased” towards the pro-life movement.

“There was no representation from the other side of the debate. The entire event was geared a certain way,” said Salas.

Members of the Socialist Student Union (SSU), an organization that says it’s intended to raise awareness of systematic inequality, also attended the screening of “Unplanned.”

Josh Simon, a member of SSU, said he came to the event to take notes and protest. He said he thought the event was misleading and the film was poorly made.

“The movie was awful. Not only do we think it’s propagandist nonsense, but everything about the story arc, dialogue, characters, etc. were horrible,” said Simon.

Students were able to receive cultural event credit if they stayed throughout the screening and Q&A session, but Simon encouraged others to “boycott” the credit.

“Even if no one attended we would have protested, as the idea of giving an event like this cultural credit is ostensibly an endorsement of these ideas by Winthrop, which makes many individuals feel unsafe,” said Simon.

However, representatives from the organizations that hosted the event said they wanted to share different opinions and beliefs with the campus community.

In response, Simon said the SSU protest was not about the religious identities of the people involved.

“We fight for the rights of individuals of all religions,” he said.