In a wide-ranging conversation with Faithwire last week, Ashley Bratcher discussed her faith, her unplanned pregnancy, the A-list movie stars who are secretly pro-life, her army of praying Grandmas, the “crazy” God moment that connects her and Abby Johnson, and more.
“It’s become much more than a role. It’s become a ministry,” Bratcher says of what life has been like in the days since the dust has settled on what was an overwhelming success at the box office for the “Unplanned” movie.
Bratcher refers to life in the wake of playing such a pivotal character as being a “ministry” because it sparked a reaction she didn’t see coming. Young girls from all over the country who are in the midst of unplanned pregnancies started reaching out directly to Ashley, and they were asking for help.
Given her deep ties to the pro-life issue, Bratcher felt a natural calling to start www.unplannedmoviescholarship.com, a scholarship that aims to launch in January 2020 to tangibly help women in need.
It seems natural now, but only a few months ago, however, Bratcher herself would have never guessed she’d be a leading voice in the pro-life community.
Describing the progression of her own personal views on abortion, Bratcher admits prior to landing the lead in “Unplanned” she hadn’t given the issue more than a passing glance.
“It was never really something I thought about until I landed the role,” Bratcher tells Faithwire. Playing Abby opened her eyes, but she was really forced to reckon with the subject, however, when her mom called just days into filming.
Like “A near-death experience”
“It was because of my own testimony and something that happened with my mother about four days after we started in pre-production. My mom called and we started having a conversation about the movie. She told me she had to tell me something she never told me before. It was the fact that she had gotten off an abortion table and decided to have me, and I never knew that.”
The bombshell personal news in the midst of a crowning career moment left Ashley stunned.
“I don’t really know how to describe it other than shock,” Bratcher said of her initial reaction to the revelation that her own mother nearly aborted her. “I was not mad or angry, I wasn’t sad. It’s kind of like having a near-death experience. Your entire life flashes before you because at that moment I just thought about — oh gosh I’m going to cry now,” Ashley says before audibly getting choked up while gathering her thoughts. “I just thought about everything I had the chance to do here on earth and where I was right then, telling this amazing pro-life story and never knowing that I almost never had the opportunity to. I thought about all my relationships, my husband, my son, literally everything in my life flashed before my eyes because I was almost minutes from never having the opportunity to live my life.”
Bratcher explained to Faithwire’s Dan Andros that she’d already been inspired on the abortion issue thanks to reading Abby’s story, but getting news of her own personal connection to it made things all the more real.
“Once that happened… I had already really, really been inspired by Abby’s true story. I was on board after that because of what Abby saw. It really did change things for me, too, because I didn’t know what happened during an abortion procedure. To have that personal element, to know that my gosh, I almost never lived… that really really hit it home for me. From that point on it was a very personal and passionate thing for me. I have a lot of emotions right now,” she said, clearly a bit overcome by the thought of it all.
Ashey’s “Unplanned” Pregnancy & a ‘Crazy’ God moment
It can often be amazing to see how God can use the brokenness of our own lives ultimately for something good. Ashley is proof positive this is true, given her own background with an unplanned pregnancy.
As a young, self-described “failing” actress living in New York City, Ashley hit a rock-bottom of sorts, giving up on acting, leaving the big city behind, living at home, and on top of it all — pregnant.
“A couple of weeks after a major depressive episode, I had quit acting because I was just failing in New York. I came back to my hometown, was living with one of my grandmas and trying to re-connect with my high school sweetheart and I ended up getting pregnant. I had my own unplanned pregnancy,” Bratcher says before a momentary pause.
She breaks the silence. “I’m going to tell you something I haven’t told anyone else yet.”
A few days ago, she explained, a complete stranger, who had seen the movie Unplanned, approached her and said, “God put it on my heart to share this with you.”
At this point, Bratcher was likely wondering if she should stay and listen or tuck tail and run. Given she’s already fairly skilled at jiu-jitsu, she probably felt comfortable enough to hear the woman out.
She decided to stay.
“I said, okay. She says, ‘Do you realize the baby that Abby saw was 13 weeks old, and it was in September?'”
After adding the qualifier that she doesn’t have the dates in front of her and hopes she’s getting it exactly right for the interview, Ashley continues with the story.
The woman had read Abby’s book, which detailed the abortion she witnessed that ultimately led her to quit the industry. The baby Abby saw on screen, the woman explained to Ashley, would’ve been born in March of 2010.
Not immediately understanding the significance of the date, the woman connected the dots: “Your son was born in March of 2010.”
Ashley was stunned. She called it a “holy smokes” God moment that continues to further tie her story into a beautiful picture.
“Isn’t that crazy? What are the odds? It’s just another God thing, another reassurance and another beautiful part of the way He wove this story together. I went through everything I went through and it was a part of everything she (Abby) was going through at the same time,” Bratcher says.
A ‘Holiday Christian’ & Praying Grandmas
Bratcher’s faith journey begins like many: with Santa and chocolate.
“I was a holiday Christian. My parents went on Easter and Christmas,” she begins. “But the real thing that I think hooked me in is that I had three really faithful, strong, praying grandmas. Strong praying grandmas in the south are a force to be reckoned with,” Bratcher adds with a laugh.
“They instilled this God-awareness in me, and they planted seeds that just hadn’t taken root until I was much, much older. But they had done something in my life where they had planted these seeds and I knew who God was even if I was choosing to rebel against what He wanted for my life. He was still there and I knew that…sometimes it really made me really mad. But then there were times I was crying out saying, ‘Okay, God why am I here? Prove it, tell me, why am I here?'”
While the grandmothers in her life planted the seed, things didn’t really begin to take root until the moment her son came into this world.
“I looked at him and for the first time, I understood relationship versus religion. I had always thought Christianity was a checklist, a set of rules, you have to do this and this is how you can be a Christian. And I never understood it was really about a relationship where you have a conversation with God where you love God and you do things out of respect because of that relationship that you have with God through Jesus Christ. And when I saw my son and I loved him so much I thought wow, God must really love us so much more if I can love this tiny little person this much. That was the awakening that deepened my faith.”
Pro-life in every sense of the word
Christians are often criticized for allegedly only caring about the life of unborn babies. It’s a flimsy criticism on many levels, and Ashley is proving yet again why this is the case. She’s using the platform she’s been given to help not only unborn babies survive, but the young mothers who feel they have no other choice.
“I had this idea a couple of months ago because I was receiving messages, mostly on Instagram, from girls who were experiencing their own unplanned pregnancies,” Bratcher explained to Faithwire. “When you play a role like this sometimes people see you as that person. They think ‘well, she must be a person I can talk to about this.’ I try to make myself available, but the number one thing I’m hearing is I won’t be able to finish school. I’m going to have to drop out.”
Instead of brushing off those calls and basking in her newly found fame, Bratcher seized on the opportunity to give back.
“It occurred to me there was such a strong need, in the sense that if this is a problem, it’s such an easy problem to solve,” she says.
After taking the idea to the movie producers and asking for permission to use the name of the film, they were all in.
“I went to the producers and said, ‘I’m asking if you’ll give me permission to do this on my own and use the movie to carry on the tradition of giving back.’ I want the movie to have a legacy of giving,” she said. “This is a make or break decision for a young woman and I hate that. You can go to school. You can achieve your dreams. You just need a little bit of help from the people around you. And that’s what the scholarship does.”
It’s a wonderful example of someone using what God has given them and making the most out of it, for His glory. You can help this great cause by visiting www.unplannedmoviescholarship.com and contributing. They hope to launch officially in January 2020.
One surprising fact to come in the aftermath of the film is the support Bratcher has received from within the industry. While not betraying the confidence of those who reached out to tell her what a wonderful job she did in the movie and that they are fully behind her pro-life advocacy, Ashley explains she’s received calls from a surprising list of Hollywood celebrities.
“Oh yes, you guys would be shocked,” she says when asked if people would know the people who have reached out. “I was shocked. I am still sometimes like ‘what, who just called me?'”
She then went on to explain that there are many more pro-life voices behind the scenes, they’re just not as open about it—yet.
“Just know that I think the media—liberal media, conservative media, all of it—they like to skew things sometimes. It’s easy to say ‘Oh, Hollywood is so liberal, they’re all pro-choice.’ That’s not the case. They’re not all pro-choice. I’m not the only one. There are a lot more of us… there’s a ton of us out in Hollywood.”
Let’s be praying for those behind the scenes to be as bold and effective as Bratcher has for the most vulnerable in our society today. And do be praying for Ashley as she continues to share her journey, her faith, her struggles with mental health issues, and more with the public at large.
Check out the rest of the podcast interview (embedded at the top of the story) to find out the “silly” way she got into acting, [Hint: There’s a State Fair involved], her legendary jiu-jitsu skills, and the Marvel character she’s dying to play.