After playing the lead in the film that exposed the dark profit motive of the nation’s largest abortion business Unplanned movie actress Ashley Bratcher continues to focus her career on a making a difference in people’s lives, doing so amid an even more abortion-committed entertainment industry post-Dobbs.
Pregnancy Help News caught up with Bratcher recently and discussed her latest project, the ongoing effect the Unplanned movie has on viewers, and how she and her husband are raising their son to live a life of conviction.
Bratcher was in Greeneville, Tenn., earlier this past fall to present the latest Unplanned Movie Scholarship to a mom who chose life for her child in challenging circumstances and had been working to continue her education.
It was the fifth award for the Unplanned Movie Scholarship, a partnership between the actress and Heartbeat International, the world’s largest network of pregnancy help, to help moms pursue their educational dreams. Bratcher approached Heartbeat about collaborating on the scholarship because her experience making the film had fostered her pro-life conviction and commitment to help others.
“After I did Unplanned, it was important to me to be involved in stories that I felt like mattered and were going have a positive impact in the world,” she told Pregnancy Help News.
Bratcher is currently at work on the true story of Dr. Francis “Frankie” Kelsey, the doctor who fought to keep the drug thalidomide from being approved for the U.S. market in the 1960s after it had caused severe birth defects and miscarriages elsewhere, exposing the unmonitored drug trial scandal and corruption within the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the pharmaceutical industry.
As a medical officer for the FDA Kelsey’s opposition to the drug’s approval came with risk to her career and cost to her family, and she is credited with saving many lives. Bratcher says it is an Erin Brockovich-type story.
Along with acting Bratcher is a producer, writer, and director. She is lead producer of her latest film, which is being made with Angel Studios, the studio behind The Chosen series. She will also play a major supporting role as Dr. Barbara Moulton, who worked at the FDA around the same time as Kelsey and was one of the first whistleblowers in the U.S.
“She was comrade of Francis Kelsey's in the sixties, and she's kind of the more feisty, outspoken one,” Bratcher explained. “And she encourages Frankie to step up and if she really wants to make a difference, to do what she feels like is the right thing.”
"If this is a reason that women have abortions, let's solve the problem"
Asked whether anything has changed in the entertainment industry for those who hold pro-life values since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade with the Dobbs ruling earlier this year, Bratcher said it's even more difficult now to be pro-life because so many studios have spoken out against the decision. Many studios are now saying they will pay for women's abortions if they have to travel outside the state as well, she said.
“And it's really frustrating when you're someone who's pro-life,” said Bratcher. “Especially what I would say, very actively pro-life and proactively pro-life, and standing in the gap, and doing things like the Unplanned Movie Scholarship with Heartbeat, where you're solving problems.”
“And you're saying, if this is a reason that women have abortions, let's solve the problem,” said Bratcher. “And I feel like companies just saying, ‘Well, pay for the abortion’ isn't really solving a problem.”
“How about you give us better maternity benefits?” Bratcher asked. “You know, what does parental a leave look like? How are we going to pay for insurance? Those are the real issues. Instead of throwing money on the problem.”
Despite the frustration, difficulty, and cost of being pro-life in her industry, doing the right thing through her career became and remains a priority for Bratcher.
"I started praying about it and I just felt like I was supposed to play the role”
When the prospect for the role in Unplanned came before her, Bratcher had no idea what was in store for her or the movie that also effectively unveiled the gruesome nature of abortion.
She viewed Abby Johnson’s testimony after she had submitted an audition tape and was deeply troubled.
“So, then it just rocked my world,” Bratcher said. “I was bawling, crying on the floor because I had no idea what happens during abortion - none whatsoever. I didn't know what the actual procedure was like.”
“And it just kind of hit me all at once, this kind of wave of conviction, if you will,” she said. “And I started praying about it and I just felt like I was supposed to play the role.”
The producers warned her of career ramifications for playing a character in a pro-life film.
“They told me that I might get blacklisted, I might never work again,” said Bratcher. “All of those things that I've talked about. And I just knew my heart, and I was like, you know, the Lord has prepared me, and I don't live my life to serve producers, directors, my movies don't determine my worth. I wanna do it.”
The set was closed and top secret to avoid protesters and ensure safety for the cast and crew, and actors were sworn to secrecy on details even with their families.
When Bratcher was able to tell her mother where she was and what she was doing, it led to personal transformation for them both.
Bratcher was hesitant to tell her mother about the film at first because even though Johnson’s story is about transformation, Johnson herself having had two abortions and working for Planned Parenthood all those years, Bratcher did not want to hurt her mother’s feelings because she knew her mom had an abortion when she was in high school.
But as she started to explain to her mother the role she was playing her mother began sobbing.
Bratcher’s mother then went on to reveal that later when she was 19, she was on the abortion table for the second time, and a very pregnant nurse walked in. Her mother recounted getting sick to her stomach and knowing in that moment she couldn't go through with it.
“My mom said, “I got up and I walked out, and I chose to have you,” and I had no idea,” Bratcher said. “I mean, I never knew until I started doing this movie and didn't really have the stance honestly to begin with. And there I was finding out that I almost never had the chance to walk the earth. So, it was another God incidence. I mean it was definitely a moment where I felt like God had really made plans for my life.”
Following God’s plan and doing the right thing also resonates for Bratcher in her personal life. She is clear that whatever the issue she and husband David have raised their son, now 12, to stand up against injustice.
“Is it meaningful? Is it going to change someone's life?”
“No matter how small or how big, always be true to yourself and honor your values and stand up anytime someone is being bullied or pressured or discriminated against in any way,” Bratcher told Pregnancy Help News. “We feel like it's important to always be that person who stands up for what's right. And that obviously works in stands true to a lot of different issues.”
But her son knows the significance of the pro-life issue in particular, she said, because it was important for him to understand when she had to start traveling and leave him at home.
“I had to make a decision,” she said. “Is this worth it? Is it worth me taking time away from my family to go do this movie or to travel to these dinners? Or even to come and award the scholarship, is it going to impact the world in a positive way?”
“Is it meaningful? Is it going to change someone's life?” continued Bratcher. “And if the answer is yes, then, then yeah, maybe I'm called to be away for a little bit. But it's important for my son to know the reason why. Because if he knows the reason why, then he's more understanding and he can respect it and he can be proud.’
It's also a lesson for him to know what is valuable and important in life and to give back to other people, she said.
There is grace and forgiveness
Bratcher continues to actively give back to others via her role in Unplanned, as she still hears from people almost daily who have been stirred by the movie
One of the things that she finds most interesting after doing the movie is that she’s had a lot of men reach out to her who were negatively affected by abortions, whether they had either supported, coerced, or just been complicit in them.
“They really suffered loss and had a traumatic experience,” Bratcher said. “Because they felt like they didn't have a say.”
“I think the societal norm is to tell men that they don't get to say what happens,” she said. “And they're still affected by it. They're a parent, and a lot of them experience this very deep hurt and pain that they hide because of that.”
“The standard is not to express that pain,” said Bratcher. “And they would reach out and express to me that they were dealing with that. And I think it's important that we acknowledge that part of how abortion affects people as well.”
Bratcher tells these men that there is grace and forgiveness possible for them very similarly as with women who have abortions.
“Especially those who feel like either they supported it, or they had put the pressure on women to do that,” she said. “There's still forgiveness. There's forgiveness and grace for everyone, and we do better when we know better. And that's just how it is in life.”
Tweet This: "There's forgiveness and grace for everyone, and we do better when we know better. And that's just how it is in life” - Ashley Bratcher
Supporting courageous moms
The many people reaching out to her to tell their stories, and many having the common theme of wishing to choose life but not knowing how to stay on track with their education is what inspired her to use her voice and place in the pro-life movement to help relieve the financial weight for those experiencing unplanned pregnancies who want to continue their education with the scholarship.
“So, the idea came to me that if this was just one small problem that we could solve by relieving the financial burden, then that was something I wanted to do,” Bratcher said. “These moms are making really courageous decisions and choosing life. It's really inspiring to all of us, and we want to honor them.”