The VR experience simulates clinic harassment.
It’s no secret that women seeking abortions often face harsh, verbal opposition from protesters outside of women’s health centers such as Planned Parenthood. However, it’s difficult to imagine how jarring the experience can be for those women without stepping into their shoes. Now virtual reality film Across the Line is giving viewers a chance to do exactly that.
Created by Nonny de La Peña, Brad Lichtenstein, and Jeff Fitzsimmons, the film opens up in a stark clinic room where a patient seeking an abortion waits for her doctor. The film goes on to explore the trip to the health care clinic itself. On her way inside the clinic, the main character is stopped by an unrelenting protester in an uncomfortable interaction that quickly turns threatening.
“You’re a whore, you’re a whore,” yells one man, in a way so harsh that it almost feels overly dramatized. However, it’s no over-exaggeration; the film uses real life audio and phrasing from various anti-abortion protests across the country.
The audio isn’t the only part of the film with powerful connections to real life. Actor Raegan McDonald Mosley, who plays the doctor, is a real life physician at a Planned Parenthood Center. Lead actress Kristina Nailen, who plays the woman seeking an abortion, knows just how emotionally tumultuous street harassment can be, as she’s had an abortion herself.
Across the Line was created to inspire empathy by showing the challenges faced by women seeking safe, accessible reproductive healthcare. To test the film’s effectiveness in creating empathetic responses, Planned Parenthood conducted studies on two groups with different political leanings and geographical settings.
The verdict? The VR experience was a success. In both cases, those who watched the film showed much more empathy towards the women facing harassment than those who didn’t watch the film. The results were so positive that Planned Parenthood has begun distributing the film to college campuses throughout the country, and the organization is currently in the beginning stages of using the film to help policy makers and police officers better understand the effects of street harassment.
You can watch the full 360° video experience below:
Though the film isn’t easy to watch—Planned Parenthood Experience VP Molly Eagan reported that some viewers had to be encouraged to stick with the experience past the first few minutes due to the tough subject matter—it has spurred important conversations about the harsh reality of harassment outside of abortion clinics.
While everyone knows that virtual reality is a fantastic medium for games and stunning, immersive visual experiences, the success of Across the Line is a timely reminder that VR can be used to create and spread social awareness, too.