By Lisa Olcese and Holly Ponton
June 8, 2016
On June 2, Holly Ponton, Capacity Building Manager, and Lisa Olcese, Executive Director, went to a performance of Remarkably Normal, a powerful documentary play about real people and abortion. “Soulful, funny and at times challenging,” the play featured interviews and stories submitted to the 1 in 3 Campaign, and put the human experience back into abortion – which is the first thing that gets – and stays – lost in the political clamor. Here’s their discussion about the experience.
LO: Holly, what stood out to you most about this play?
HP: There were so many powerful moments! What comes to mind first is the fact that you can’t draw lines about when abortion is ok or not – whatever the circumstances – incest, birth defects, bad timing – every person has a unique experience. I was also surprised to learn that the majority of women who get abortions are already parents.
Lisa, what about you? What made the greatest impression on you?
LO: I appreciated how the play captured perspectives across generations, from those who lived through the pre-Roe days to those coming of age today. Besides the important reminder that history is veering toward repeating itself, the play underscored the severe repercussions that occur when we limit access to abortion, especially to youth and people with limited income. Regardless of whether it’s parental notification (as we have in Colorado) or a 24-hour ‘wait period,’ these limitations create further delays and increase costs, health risks and all kinds of problems.
Speaking of parents, did you find anything that you’d like to add to Colorado Youth Matter’s work with askable adults?
HP: Parents and guardians who are or strive to be more ‘askable’ need to know that there is a greater urgency to talk about abortion from a variety of perspectives – including health, decision-making, and most especially rights.
For askable adults and anyone who cares about the people in their life, this play left me with the conviction that If someone reaches out to you for support, be willing to be present to their experience. Witness and support the person, because you don’t know what their journey is and how they might grow through it.
As a long-term supporter of reproductive rights and justice, Lisa, did anything surprise you?
LO: The play was a meaningful, timely wake-up call to us, “The Choir.” It normalized abortion but it also emphatically honored the range of experiences that people have. And also that the debate about abortion is the gateway to erode the rights of all people, young and old – especially those with a uterus. So it’s not just about what more do we need to learn but also how do we prevent our country from catapulting back to the dark ages with respect to individual rights and personal decision-making about our own health.
Holly, what did you find most challenging?
HP: As you just mentioned, I found it challenging that as a country we continue to restrict rights in this arena, instead of prioritizing the individual’s right to make personal decisions about their own health. It’s chilling, really.
Also, while the play left no question about the rights of the person with the uterus, there’s really limited public conversation among men who have their own conflicted feelings when their partner chooses abortion, even when they support the right of their partner as the ultimate decision-maker. I think this is largely due to the fact that there are many great men who support their partner’s agency, and there are also complexities there. It was very provocative.
Lisa, as you know, I like to end on a positive note! Overall, this play was uplifting and affirming, wouldn’t you agree? What did you find most hopeful in Remarkably Normal?
LO: Agreed! It did such a fabulous job conveying the range of experiences across generations, and included the fact that for many women, abortion is an empowering, affirming choice – which doesn’t mean it’s without grief or other complicated emotions, but that’s what I found hopeful. It underscored our human experience of decision-making, and how personal that is for each of us as we consider other elements that weave through our lives.
The faith-based perspective was strong and inspiring, and I agree: while the political scene can seem infuriating and bleak, we can all work on becoming less hostile, more curious about each other’s experiences, and move from judgment, over-generalizations and a lack of empathy to compassion, love and the support of free will.
I’m grateful to COLOR, Advocates for Youth and the other leaders who made this campaign and event possible. I hope everyone gets a chance to see it!