Editor’s note: Tessa Gaffney is pursuing her Masters in Arts Administration at the University of Akron and is a member of the ensemble for “ Out of Silence: Abortion Stories from the 1 in 3 Campaign.” The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Akron School of Dance, Theatre and Arts Administration or the New World Performance Laboratory.
Few other words in the English language have the power to inspire such passion, such vitriol. On the extreme end, doctors have been murdered, health clinics set on fire, over this issue. Violent in its imagery on both sides: tiny body parts and bloody hangers. But in our day-to-day lives, in “polite society,” it has become taboo to even discuss.
This silence leads to those who have had abortions hiding their experiences out of shame and politicians passing “heartbeat bills” having never considered why someone might be seeking termination in the first place.
In the 46 years since Roe v. Wade was passed, state legislatures have passed over 1,000 restrictions intended to restrict access to this essential medical procedure. Just this November, the Ohio House of Representatives passed one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the country and there are currently only seven abortion clinics operating in the state.
And yet, this tells us nothing of what it’s actually like to have to make the decision to terminate a pregnancy, to undergo the procedure, to continue living afterwards. We need stories for that. Human connection. Honest dialogue.
This spring, The University of Akron’s School of Dance, Theatre, and Arts Administration is producing “Out of Silence: Abortion Stories from the 1 in 3 Campaign” in collaboration with New World Performance Laboratory, “Akron’s alternative theatre company.”
The production is part of a national project, which is attempting to spark a new dialogue about abortion, rooted in education, honesty and empathy. The 1 in 3 Campaign’s mission is to ensure that abortion remains safe, legal, and affordable. Its parent organization, Advocates for Youth, champions programs and policies that recognize young people’s rights to positive and realistic sexual health information and services.
The event, consisting of short plays from women across the country, as well as various artistic pieces inspired by conversations with the community, challenges the divisive partisan rhetoric surrounding abortion and simply asks us to listen. The show features UA student actors and is directed by long-time members of NWPL, Jamie Hale, Rosilyn Jentner and Debora Totti.
Afterwards, there will be open discussions between the audience, the cast, and pro-choice organizations, in which everyone will be welcome to share their point of view in a community forum, having been moved by the humanity showcased onstage or informed by the post-show talk-back. The theatre has always been a place to gather and share ideas about the state of society, and university campuses have often sparked political movements.
This issue will not go away if we ignore it. In separate studies over the course of two decades, Guttmacher Institute found that over time, the main reasons for ending pregnancy did not change: either having a baby would dramatically interfere with one’s education, work, or ability to care for their other dependents, or they could not afford a baby at the time. Most felt they had no other choice. Abortion is a right protected by the Constitution and though we may have to constantly defend it, we don’t have to apologize for it. Or only speak about it in hushed tones. Consider this me shouting:
Each and every human deserves to decide if and when to bring children into this world. If we don’t have autonomy over our bodies, we have nothing.
So, let’s talk about abortion, Akron.
Performances will take place on the UA campus in Sandefur Theatre, Guzzetta Hall, on May 2, 3 and 4 at 7:30 p.m., May 5 at 2 p.m.; and at Balch Street Theatre, 220 South Balch St., May 10 and 11 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students.
For more information on all show events, visit www.uakron.edu/dtaa/performances.