Planned Parenthood Aims to Reduce Violence Against Abortion Through VR Documentary
The fear and darkness brought about by antiabortion violence is unimaginable, yet it seems like not many are aware about the issue and the fact that cases of such have increased over the years.
The Horrors of Insults
“You’re a whore!”
“Maybe your parents should have aborted you!”
“Shame on you, you wicked, pathetic woman!”
Having these vicious insults hurled at one as they walk into a Planned Parenthood clinic by a group of angry men and women is downright scary. These people are enraged, and they’re shoving their fingers in your face. It’s really invasive and deeply unsettling.
Only that one isn’t exactly in front of a Planned Parenthood clinic, having this experience. In real life, there’s a virtual reality headset wrapped around one’s head with headphones, and one is being guided around a room by someone else by the arm. The belligerent people shouting are 3-D animated renderings and are not real. However, everything they’re saying is real-world audio from real-world antiabortion protesters. After taking offing the headset, it will be hard to shrug off what’s just been seen, heard, and felt.
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VR Movies from Planned Parenthood
There is a scene from Across the Line, a seven-minute VR movie, that puts one in a young woman’s shoes on her visit to a Planned Parenthood clinic. It was executive-produced by Planned Parenthood in collaboration with Nonny de la Peña, a VR pioneer dubbed the godmother of virtual reality by Engadget. Documentary filmmakers Brad Lichtenstein and Jeff Fitzsimmons also contributed to make it a success. The part-documentary, part-fictional immersive experience debuted in January at the Sundance Film Festival and at the moment is on tour around the country. On Monday, it was tested by Cosmopolitan.com at a media screening hosted by Planned Parenthood.
The film exposes its audience to the daily harassment being faced thousands of women when they make routine visits to reproductive health care centers. It is also coming at a time when threats and violence against abortion providers and patients are at an all-time high in the country. In the past five years, 288 laws have been passed to make it harder for women to access safe and legal abortions.
Planned Parenthood has seen increased legislative attacks after last summer, when an anti-abortion group released a series of highly edited videos that alleged that it illegally sold fetal tissue for profit. Planned Parenthood denied the allegations, and twelve state investigations launched afterward could not find anything tangible. In November, a man who called himself a “warrior for the babies” caused grievous harm to three people and wounded nine others by shooting them. In response, dozens of Planned Parenthood clinics tightened their security.
According to Molly Eagan, the vice president of Planned Parenthood Experience, the Across the Line movie project came together last spring, months before the videos or the attack. She said its aim was to change the perception of the protesters and change their attitude toward women going to Planned Parenthood clinics.
“We knew though, that with some of the events of the summer and the fall, with the videos and the shooting, that it just made it more essential for us to keep on with the work. It wasn’t because of those things, but we felt like it was a very important piece to release to the public because of the escalation of bullying outside of health centers [which] really leads to violence,” she said.
Activists are also hopeful there are ways to engage people in thoughtful debate about the issue. Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of Planned Parenthood, hopes that the film will start dialogue and raise awareness among those who oppose abortion.