Abortion advocates are very excited about a new video. Called “Across the Line,” the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and is a Planned Parenthood production. The film purports to show what women experience when they try to get an abortion. According to the filmmakers, women are harassed and attacked, having to face down a gauntlet of angry protesters holding graphic signs as they shout insults and hurl epithets at the vulnerable women just trying to get an abortion. Through a virtual reality experience, viewers can put themselves in the shoes of the patient.
According to RH Reality Check, the footage contains real audio and video from abortion facilities around the country. (Whether or not that’s actually true is anyone’s guess.)
The filmmakers have taken what they say is real documentary audio and video footage from abortion clinic protests and used virtual reality, 360-degree video technology, and computer-generated imagery (CGI) to bring a patient’s experience to life. Jeff and Kelli Fitzsimmons told RH Reality Check at the screening that, as far as they know, Across the Line is the first “hybrid documentary” to blend all of these technologies and storytelling forms.
… Soon the viewer is transported minutes into the past, into a car. Along the road, several abortion protesters hold signs, some of which depict what are supposed to be aborted fetuses. A man approaches the car and tries to convince the woman to follow him to a so-called crisis pregnancy center, designed to dissuade pregnant people from seeking abortion care, often using misinformation. It now becomes clear what upset the young woman.
The producers told RH Reality Check that this scene is based on a real experience, adapted from real audio and video footage outside of a reproductive health clinic in Aurora, Illinois.
The third and final scene is more fictionalized. The viewer is the person trying to enter the reproductive health clinic, walking toward the waiting arms of a clinic escort. A gaggle of protesters appears, and some of them begin shouting insults at the viewer, like “jezebel” and “whore.”
Jeff Fitzsimmons said the audio used in this scene is real, but was stitched together from various locations to represent a composite portrayal of what some people face when they try to obtain abortion care. It is not necessarily the experience of all patients.
You can get a feel for what the film is like in the video below:
Planned Parenthood was the executive producer on the project, so we can be assured that there is bias in this film. Nonny de la Pena, CEO of Emblematic Group and one of the filmmakers, claims they used nonfiction footage to show a “pattern of intimidation and provocation.” The point of the film is obviously to portray pro-lifers as angry and potentially violent, while creating sympathy for women seeking abortions.
While it would be difficult to know how much veracity actually exists in the film, pro-lifers can still learn from it as an example of what not to do. How do we reach people considering abortion? Through love, not hate. It’s a message that was echoed by David Sterrett in an interview with Live Action News. As the former national director of Church Outreach for Online for Life, Sterrett has served as a sidewalk counselor for years, and stressed that sidewalk counselors should not appear angry or hostile, and should be sure that these women know that we are there to help them:
I think the key is to speak boldly…but in love. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Not everybody is made to sidewalk counsel. It’s better when only one or two people sidewalk counsel while the majority of the people pray. Also, it’s helpful to learn from others what is most effective. For those wanting training, I encourage them to learn from those who have been active in this ministry for years. When I was new, I would brainstorm with Lauren Muzyka’s organization Sidewalk Advocates for Life, which you can learn about here.
… They need to understand that you are there to help them. When I first got started sidewalk counseling, I greeted a young man who was getting out of his car. As I asked him how he was doing, he told me he was taking his girlfriend to get an abortion. I looked him in the eyes and told him that at the moment of conception, all of the baby’s genetic information has already been established and that every surgical abortion stops a beating heart. I told him I’m so thankful that his mother chose life for him. Then I asked this young man to pray with me. We prayed and he gave me his phone number. I invited him to walk across the street to the pregnancy center and allow his girlfriend to get free professional counseling and sonogram services. Although they did not walk across the street with me to get a free sonogram, they did agree not to get an abortion that day.
Most sidewalk counselors do not behave like the angry mob portrayed in this pro-abortion video. But the few bad apples feed into the negative perceptions that the pro-abortion liberal media will use to bolster their arguments against pro-lifers. This is why it is crucial for pro-lifers to follow the lead of organizations like Sidewalk Advocates for Life. Their vision and mission calls for sidewalk advocates to reach out to women in crisis pregnancies prayerfully and peacefully, saying that we should aim “to be the hands and feet of Christ, offering loving, life-affirming alternatives to all present at the abortion center, thereby eliminating demand and ending abortion.” They also recognize that we must do more than just implore women to choose life. We must be there to help her if she does. According to the Sidewalk Advocates for Life “Spirit of the Program,” this is a fundamental part of their ministry.
While we provide crisis intervention on the sidewalk to women in unplanned pregnancies headed into the abortion center, we recognize that our outreach can only go so far: we must offer her real, ongoing help or crisis management. Our interaction never ends without offering her life-affirming alternatives such as help from the local pregnancy resource center(s) and other organizations in her local community.
We know that much of the outrage surrounding sidewalk counselors is fabricated. We also know that pro-abortion mobs have threatened pro-lifers. This isn’t an issue of pro-life bullies versus pro-abortion martyrs. But if we are to end abortion, we must continue to follow the lead of organizations like Sidewalk Advocates for Life, as well as Abby Johnson’s ministry And Then There Were None. We should aim to reach out to abortive women and abortion industry workers with love in our hearts, because it is only through peaceful and prayerful love that we can ever hope to end abortion.