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Nearly every day we could turn on the news and watch politicians and anti-abortion activists attempt to curb women’s right to an abortion. However, in reality, getting the procedure is much more difficult than just having legal access.
In Trapped, a browser-based video game, these roadblocks become much more clear, particularly for those of us who’ve never had to examine the barriers before.
In a matter of minutes, players follow a simulation of someone who wants to have an abortion. In the randomly selected scenario, the player essentially “walks in the shoes” of this person as they learn they’re pregnant, assess their situation, make their decision, then attempt to go to the doctor, get their medical bills covered, find transportation, and get the procedure.
In some of the scenarios, the person is a teenager; in others, already experiencing menopause. Sometimes their procedures won’t be covered by insurance, and other times their doctor won’t speak their language and will need a specialist to come in at a later date. Sometimes they don’t have transportation to the clinic or are too far along to get an abortion in their state. These are all variables that contribute to a longer pregnancy, and subsequently a more costly abortion.
Kate Bertash, the programmer behind Trapped, told the Daily Dot that she hoped players of the game would learn that the legality of abortion doesn’t help people who can’t afford them.
“I think putting those time/logistics/legal variables that can feel squishy as an outside observer into something hard and tangible like an actual price helps those who otherwise might not have thought about that relationship,” Bertash wrote in an email.
Bertash said she based Trapped off of “Walk in my Shoes,” a card game created by the Women’s Health Specialists of Sacramento. The card game was used at last year’s Abortion Access Hackathon as an open source framework and was digitized by one group of participants. Bertash, an organizer of the hackathon, then made her own version of the concept with Trapped.
“Walk in my Shoes,” the card game, bases the game’s scenarios off real-life situations and profiles of five different patients, and then introduces about five to seven different variations into each step of the abortion process, such as payment, taking time off, and access to providers. In her version, Bertash then added dialogue and rewrote the copy to be more similar to language used in simulator games.
“The group that picked it up did an amazing job, but weekend-long hackathons are very tight timeframes and I think the time ran a bit short for what they wanted to accomplish,” Bertash said. “I just loved the concept so much that I thought I’d give it another go with a variant of gameplay that I thought could come together quickly, and show off the work of the card game’s creators.”
For the women in Bertash’s game, these simulations are very much a reality. According to the National Abortion Federation, people seeking an abortion for a pregnancy between six and 10 weeks could pay between $350 and $500, with some costing more than $1,000 after 20 weeks. And Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws, which Bertash addresses in the game, are frequently pursued by anti-abortion lawmakers in an effort to stifle abortion access, instead of protect women’s health.
“I know lots of us support the ‘right to choose,’ but don’t often get exposed to why so many people can’t ever choose, including being boxed out by the expense or delayed past the time where it’s an option,” Bertash said. “I hope then that even people who know they support abortion already, who maybe already call their legislators or take other actions, can know just how much immediate impact it can have if we give to abortion funds as well.”
You can play Trapped here.
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.