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Out Of Silence Sparks Dialogue About Abortion

A new play seeks to prompt discussion, following the success of The Vagina Monologues.

Photo Courtesy of Advocates for Youth, Tuyet Pham (on the left) and Celeste Jones (right)

A new play debuted in Washington D.C. earlier this week called Out of Silence, which consists of 13 different scenes about abortion based on real people’s accounts.

The personal abortion stories were collected through the reproductive health organization Advocates for Youth over the course of the last several years as part of its 1 in 3 Campaign, a name that reflects the fact that one in three U.S. women will have an abortion in her lifetime.

Nearly 20 years ago, Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues—a collection of monologues about women’s sexuality that spans from orgasms, to birth, to sexual assault and rape—opened for the first time. In the wake of the show’s debut, the play has become nearly ubiquitous on college campuses, and it also assisted in the creation of V-Day, an international campaign to raise awareness about violence against women. The controversial production was revolutionary at the time, creating a safe space for women to discuss stories that otherwise might not have been told.

Pro-choice advocates now want to create a similar dialogue and platform for women who have chosen not to continue with a pregnancy. ThinkProgress reports that starting this fall, Advocates for Youth is hoping to bring Out of Silence to college campuses. The idea is to make it available for students and activists to stage it for free.

However, Out of Silence has a few important differences from The Vagina Monologues. Ensler wrote the play after interviewing about 200 women on their relationships to their vaginas. The real-life abortion stories in Out of Silence were adapted for the stage by 10 different female playwrights from different backgrounds. This intentional move is meant to highlight the variety of experiences surrounding abortion, which is the central mission of Advocates of Youth, according to the main playwright, Jacqueline Lawton.

Monica Heisey, a writer from Toronto, discussed the need for a wider range in narratives regarding abortion. In a recent article on Gawker, she concludes by discussing the importance of people’s willingness to talk about abortion:

To avoid conversations about abortion with the people in your life is to avoid thinking about abortion as a complex human experience, as nuanced as any other. Denying the range of women's experiences of abortion keeps the topic a taboo in reality and a vibrant topic of debate in the abstract. It is easier to give away the reproductive rights of an abstract idea. Abortion is not just something that happens to one in three women. It happens to one in three women you know.

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