Today I am sharing a video in which I am describing The Choice VR project - why I am working on it, why am I using virtual reality, how I am planning to address and bust the stigma surrounding abortion. I am also describing what does it mean to be "present" in a VR experience (no tech-talk, just how it feels), and sharing the story of an antichoice person who watched one of our interviews - and it's changed him.


Below you can also find a written version.





Hi, guys, I'm Joanne. I'm The Choice director and I'm here to record another video telling you a little bit more about The Choice. Sorry for a little break, but some nasty flu caught both me and Tom. You can, I guess, see that I'm looking very, very tired, also it's because we are having a very crazy time now before coming to SXSW and to Austin. We will be there in mid-March both to present The Choice at the South by Southwest Festival - we are part of the Canada House. And we are also recording interviews when we are there for The Choice.


So, to just briefly remind you, The Choice is an immersive documentary allowing you to meet and have a personal conversation with women who had abortion(s). We are using VR, which is virtual reality, to make it really personal, to make you feel like you're really talking to someone.


I have some notes not to forget what to talk about, so let me look at it.


The first question is: why the subject and why now? I don't think that I have to even answer that anymore as it's become a very timely issue currently, especially in the U.S.. But also globally it's not changing in a positive direction, really it's still very, very much work to do.


I come from Poland, I live in Canada and I work in Canada, but I come from Poland. And a couple of years ago, our government there tried to ban abortion completely. This is what made me start analyzing why we are even talking about it now. It's 21st century. We know enough already about abortion. But we are still fighting for it. We are fighting in the US to keep Roe v. Wade. In Canada, we have some issues now. And instead of giving people more freedom, we have to fight to keep it at least as it is.


So that's the origin of The Choice.


I'm a sociologist with my masters, and I used to work a lot with stereotypes. I was wondering why we're still talking about it and how the debate itself looks like. And the debate is very heated. And also very polarized, and there's not much room for a dialog.


I was wondering that maybe showing people's personal stories would be the answer to that and could help. So, the idea behind The Choice is to show personal stories of people who had abortion(s) and with the VR technology make you feel like you are talking to them.


Some of you ask me why VR and how it is different, what's the difference between watching the story on some YouTube and somebody sharing the story there, or reading the book, or the newspaper. The very difference between VR and any other medium is that VR puts you there, in the middle of the action, and it makes you think that you are present. That's very buzz/keyword in VR. You are present in this new environment and you are co-present with this person that is next to you in VR.


VR has also some amazing ability of making your mind think that the stuff that happened when you were in VR, you actually did experience them. So whenever I think about any VR experience that I had, I'm not thinking about watching it, playing it or anything like that, I actually think that I was there and I talked to someone, that I was taking part in the events. And this is the very thing that makes it work.


Some of you ask us why we think it will work. And this is very much the answer.


Many of the people who are anti-choice or who are not sure what they would do themselves, what their stance on the abortion issue is, they actually probably never had an opportunity to talk to someone who had abortion. They are very political, they are very argumentative, they use arguments, rhetoric, they use their belief system, all that stuff. But when you actually put them face to face with another human, it's completely different.


We already have some, for now anecdotal, proof of our experience actually already changing people. At the conferences, when we are presenting - we have some interviews already recorded and we have a demo that we show at the events, festivals and stuff. And on one of the events, I was showing it and some guy approached me, and he was very, very openly and vocally, and very loudly anti-choice. And he was suggesting that I should show, in VR, how the fetus is being ripped apart and all that stuff. So, yeah, you could definitely say that he's anti-choice. And after hearing him, I said: "OK. Can you put the headset on? I will show you someone." He watched it and I was, of course, waiting for him to take the headset off, and expecting that I will hear another rage. But he took the headset off. And he was silent. And I was like, whoa, it's working.


He was silent.


And then he said that he's sorry, that the project is very powerful and he's actually jealous that we have guts to be working on something that important.


So his reaction, first of all, was instant. And then the second element was that a couple of months later, he met us at another conference and he was actually talking about our project to other people, and introducing us. So it's not only the instant effect, but it was actually lasting. And it lasts until today, we know each other.


The reason why I think it's working is that when you put away all politics or arguments and are actually put face-to-face with another human, it's powerful. It's like, you know, in our life, the only the best way to fight with stereotypes is to put you face to face, to have a personal conversation with another human. And that's it. That works. And this is how The Choice works.


I said that we will be filming in Austin mid-March. And here is my huge request: we are still looking for storytellers, for people willing to share their abortion stories with us. And a very important aspect is that we want to show the complexity of the issue, we want to show various people who face this decision. By variety, I mean different backgrounds, different ethnicities, and different socio-economic situation, because we know that with all these different situations come slightly different challenges.


And also, I very much would like to get in touch with LGBTQ folks, because for now, we have only women, and one husband of one of our storytellers, and he's putting his perspective. But I would love to also have LGBTQ folks.


Please reach out to us. We are in Austin from March 14th till 25th.


Our e-mail is thechoice.vr@gmail.com and you can reach me there. You can reach me through my social media where I will be posting this video.


I guess that's it for now.


I will be recording more of these videos. Not sure if I will be doing it very regularly because time is crazy, but I'll give it a try in the next two weeks to put as many as I can.


Okay. Bye-bye. Thanks. 😊

In February 2018 I left work after a night shift and bought a test, my period was late and I had started to fear the worst. I used oral contraceptive but they had failed apparently as my test almost immediately showed positive.



I went online and googled info in my local city, the first result was, unbeknownst to me at that time a Crisis pregnancy center.  I sent them an email and asked for info on where to contact for termination. The CPC responded with an awful and manipulative response about how traumatic a termination can be and how I should look at options.


I was not willing to look at other options, I knew then and will always know termination was the only option I wanted.


I contacted my local Planned Parenthood and they right away set me up with a local clinic, Dr and took over all the appointment making for me. I am and always will be eternally grateful to Planned Parenthood for this.


I found out early enough that I was able to obtain a medical termination. My Dr was away for my first appointment but I went for bloodwork and the following two weeks up until meeting the Dr Were awful, I was so sick and unable to eat or move, it was the worst and most awful time in my life and the actual pregnancy part was traumatic and I wanted it to be over.


I met with the Dr in early March, she wanted to discuss options and I told her point-blank that I had never wanted children and seeing as I worked with children in ministry and foster care I did not believe in having a child when you do not want/cannot be a parent.


I was prescribed the pill for termination and left feeling relieved, we set up a time to take each pill and arranged it for my days off work. I took the second pill on my day off, it began the process and was painful for almost 2 hours. I fell asleep and when I woke up I felt relieved, I was no longer sick and felt so much relief and gratitude.


I received a call a week later and was told that my recent bloodwork came back, I was no longer pregnant. The rush of joy I felt was unbelievable after getting this news.


I have never been anything but thankful and overwhelmingly happy with my decision. I am a successful,  caring and compassionate adult woman, I live happily with my pets and my family and my belief in women having the right to CHOOSE any option is stronger than ever. I am eternally thankful to live in a country where we are not persecuted for choosing to terminate, as we never should be.


I have met so many wonderful women and I have been lucky enough to hear their stories, women who are mothers already, who are professionals, women who cannot afford to have/care for a child. Women who are too young, too old or simply do NOT want to be a mother, women like myself.


Abortion was, and still is the best decision I have ever made and I will never stop supporting any woman's right to choose.


Thank you,


Loisha

Hello everyone, some great news today!


Today we are writing about:

  • Filming in Texas in March

  • Looking for the interviewees in Austin

  • Support our fundraiser!

  • Read Abortion Conversation Projects' blog post about us

  • New video series, short Q&A


Filming in Austin, Texas


We are going to Austin, Texas, this March, to film the interviews for The Choice. We are extremely excited, as we've waited for it for a long time. And it’s happening, finally!

We will be there mid-March, attending the SXSW festival as well as to present our documentary there and hopefully find some support and collaborations. As you know, there is still so much work to be done, but if we will film enough and various interviews in Austin - we hope to close the filming-production phase. This will be a huge milestone for us, fingers crossed!


Looking for the interviewees!


And speaking about those interviews: we are still looking for more interviewees there. Please, share this information with your networks, simply re-share our posts on Facebook or Twitter, or let us know if you have some advice who should we talk to - advocacy group, local organization, anyone you might think of.


Support our fundraiser!


In order to help us with our work, Abortion Conversation Projects launched a fundraiser for us on Facebook. We are seeking support with travel and accommodation costs, renting and shipping some filming equipment, and renting filming studio. We are independent filmmakers, financing our work ourselves and with the help of our supporters, like you. Please, consider making a contribution. Any amount makes a direct impact, whether $5 or $50. Sharing our request on Facebook also helps tremendously - so please share it! 😊


And now - something to watch and read!


Abortion Conversation Projects wrote about us on their blog, very nice article - you can find it here.


And as we keep receiving questions about The Choice from you - we decided to answer them in a form of short videos. We will be posting them on our IGTV channel here. One video is already there, today we are filming the next one, and will be talking about what The Choice is about and why we are using VR. Many people do not know it well yet, so we want to tell you why we find this technology so great for this project.



Thank you for all your help, constant support, sending us motivating messages, and being with us all the time! We appreciate it very, very much!


Best, Joanne-Aśka & Tom

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