Planned Parenthood made its virtual reality movie “Across the Line” accessible online. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, with the abortion debate hitting the floor of the Supreme Court, the 2016 presidential election candidates arguing about this every single day (see Donald Trump’s comments from last week) and the Food and Drug Administration releasing new regulations for the abortion pill on Wednesday.
The film, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January and was screened at South by Southwest in March, combines CGI technology and a pseudo-documentary style to show the obstacles faced by women going into a Planned Parenthood clinic.
“Across the Line” opens with a clearly distraught woman awaiting her doctor in a clinic waiting room. The woman, played by Kristina Nailen, takes a shaky breath as the doctor comes into the room. Nailen has had an abortion in the past herself, and the doctor, Raegan McDonald-Mosley, actually works at Planned Parenthood.
At this point in the film, it seems like Nailen is having second thoughts about her abortion. But upon the doctor’s questioning, it is revealed it is not her decision she has a problem with, but the protesters of her decision outside the clinic.
The film immediately switches to 20 minutes earlier, when a friend is driving Kristina to the clinic. Throngs of militant protesters hold gruesome posters of aborted fetuses on either side of the street. Then, the dramatized portion of the film completes, and I am immediately immersed.
With the help of CGI virtual reality technology, I am the one trying to push my way through protestors into the clinic. Men and women point and shout with actual recordings from Planned Parenthood Protest rallies. The slander is horrifying. I’m called a whore, a jezebel, a murderer. Bible verses are chanted in the background as one animated man points and asks me why I couldn’t keep my legs closed. If I was raped, God is bringing me light through darkness. I’m a sinner, and I’ll rot in hell eternally.
The screen goes black, and I am suddenly back in the dining hall with a half-eaten salad next to my laptop. I’m not hungry. My mind is still in the virtual reality. I’m still stuck, being held back by bigots and misogynists screaming in my face. I’m angry, I’m frustrated, I’m torn apart. “Across the Line” has hit its mark. In seven minutes, I have experienced every woman’s worst nightmare — not an abortion, but the struggles aligned with getting one.
The new label that the FDA requested on the abortion pill packages Wednesday does not prescribe excessive in-patient care as the last old label had. The pill itself recently also changed its dosage. Before, women had to take 600 milligrams of the medication within 49 days of beginning her last period, but the FDA’s new rules allow a woman a larger window of time to take the pill from 49 to 70 days after her missed period and at a lower dosage. This means that women seeking the abortion pill in mainly pro-life states won’t have to deal with the hassle of protests and the potential danger of going into the clinic more than once.
As a feminist, I’ve always been pro-choice. And though I realized the difficulty many people face in getting an abortion, I’ve never lived the experience myself. “Across the Line,” though certainly not nearly as horrific as actually having to face protesters head on, has given me a little insight.
The title of the piece eerily reminds me of the line around Commonwealth Avenue’s Planned Parenthood, which is used to keep protesters at bay. Almost every time I walk home on a Saturday morning, I see at least 10 men and women passing out conservative Christian pamphlets and chanting under their breath. I walk by, squeezing the orange-shirted Planned Parenthood volunteer’s arm, whispering, “I’m sorry you have to deal with this. I support you” as I pass, but I’ve always seen these protesters as rather docile.
I’ve never been accosted by their ridicule or entreated by a man fingering his rosary to “come to Jesus,” but then again, I’ve never had to stop. I’ve never had to go in. I’ve never had to feel the fear that women feel daily just to receive the care they need. I wonder if they’d seem so docile if I truly needed an abortion. I wonder if our lawmakers would be so docile on women’s rights and fear-mongering pro-lifers if they too watched this film.
You can and should watch the video.