When you make solo plans to go see a play about abortion experiences, it’s difficult to know what to expect. Abortion can be a delicate topic, even in my circles. I wasn’t quite sure how to talk about it, what to wear, how excited I was allowed to be to see how everything was handled, or even if I was allowed to get a drink at the theater’s bar (I just got lemonade).
But, I was excited — as weird as that sounds. I read the description of the play on the theater’s website and just thought, “Holy shit. That is so important and so rare.”
This play, Remarkably Normal, is produced by the 1 in 3 Campaign (part of Advocates for Youth) which gets its name from the statistic that says 1 in 3 U.S. American women have had an abortion by age 45. According to a study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology in June 2011, almost one in 10 women will have an abortion by age 20, one in four by age 30 and three in 10 by age 45.
That data was collected in 2008 and the study was intended to update statistics from 1992 which estimated that 43% of women between about 15 and 45 would have an abortion. That percentage is way down, and I bet the next comprehensive study that comes out will show one that’s much lower. Either way, that number represents an enormous amount of actual people and that depends on a hell of a lot of variables, especially sexual education, access to affordable and effective birth control, and all the TRAP laws* enacted over the last several years.
The Chicago showing was hosted by the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, who had set up a blackout poetry exercise involving excerpts from articles about abortion, a discussion panel of women who do really incredible work for reproductive justice, and we even ended up doing a short breathing exercise and listened to the rain pouring down outside the theater. The whole experience was very comforting and welcoming. It felt surreal.
The play itself was amazing too. It covered a number of very different real-life abortion stories adapted from interviews conducted by the 1 in 3 Campaign. As part of the audience, I listened to the stories of women who were just like me, women who were nothing like me, women who reminded me of loved ones or acquaintances, supportive romantic partners, and a couple of medical professionals who I’d consider myself truly lucky to come into contact with in real life.
The audience hears these stories from beginning to end. Some of them are pleasant, some of them are not. Some of them are uplifting, some of them are upsetting. In the end, though I would definitely say the performance has an overall pro-choice, pro-women, pro-access agenda (which I fully support), I really think it accomplished its goal of moving “past the noise of the current political climate and focus[ing] on the people who receive and provide abortion care.”
I did leave the experience feeling reinvigorated and eager to do something tangible to help fight against abortion restrictions, but I also felt oddly touched by a line in the play that said something along the lines of, “People hear God in different ways,” and if you know me well, you know that’s pretty weird. I had a feeling I was going to get a lot out of the night and I was right.
There’s one more showing — this time in Cleveland on June 30th at the Dobama Theater. I’m not sure what the overall programming will be like, but if it’s anything like the Chicago showing, it’ll definitely be worth attending.
Check out some of the incredible organizations that helped produce this event!
*TRAP stands for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. They target abortion providers for medically unnecessary, politically motivated state regulations. They often force clinics to close completely, making access to safe and legal abortions just about impossible.