Alison Leiby’s Abortion Wasn’t A Big Deal. So Why Is It Still So Hard To Talk About?

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Alison Leiby wrote an full amusement astir getting an abortion, and however it was a straightforward determination and a comparatively mean infinitesimal successful her life. And yet, arsenic she recounts successful the show, erstwhile she called Planned Parenthood to docket that abortion, she recovered herself hardly capable to accidental the existent word, yet whispering it into the phone.

That’s 1 of the examples Leiby gives successful “Oh God, A Show About Abortion” to show however termination inactive feels similar thing that indispensable ne'er beryllium spoken astir ― adjacent though it’s an acquisition that truthful galore radical person each day, for truthful galore antithetic reasons. Running done June 4 astatine the Cherry Lane Theatre successful New York, Leiby’s 70-minute, one-woman amusement covers a batch of crushed beyond the communicative of her abortion. There are jokes astir however candy-colored commencement power ads spell retired of their mode to creation astir the merchandise they’re selling. Similarly, Leiby points retired the absurdity that for those of america who get periods, it’s socially unacceptable to speech astir them. She does the mathematics and determines that periods cumulatively instrumentality up astir six years of our lives. “Someone runs a marathon once. It takes 4 hours, and they speech astir it for the remainder of their lives,” she says successful the show. “We menstruate for six years, and we person to grin softly portion we bleed retired successful a meeting.”

As Leiby explained successful an interview, she wanted to hint however we got to this point, and exemplify that if we could speech much bluntly and much often astir these related topics, past termination wouldn’t beryllium truthful thorny either.

“If we can’t speech astir periods, and if we can’t speech honestly astir commencement power successful the commencement power ads, past we can’t speech astir the bigger — to immoderate radical — much aggravated things similar termination and motherhood,” said Leiby, who, successful summation to performing stand-up, has been a writer and shaper connected shows similar “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Broad City” and “The President Show.”

One of the astir resonant lines successful “A Show About Abortion” is erstwhile Leiby laments that we usually lone speech astir termination during situation moments. Certainly, termination entree has progressively go a situation successful caller years, arsenic Republican-led authorities legislatures person passed dozens of restrictive laws with the backing of blimpish advocacy groups. Last week’s leaked Supreme Court draught opinion, showing the court’s blimpish bulk preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, raised the stakes to the astir dire grade yet.

In workshopping her amusement implicit the past fewer years, Leiby recovered that successful immoderate ways, it’s easier to speech astir the governmental discourse of termination than astir the acquisition itself. “Jokes astir the laws, I think, radical tin tummy a small spot amended than like, ‘Oh, here’s what the session looks like.’ It conscionable feels a small much real, and I deliberation that makes immoderate radical uncomfortable.”

So it’s noteworthy that Leiby treats termination matter-of-factly, similar erstwhile she concludes the full acquisition was “anticlimactic.” One of the biggest laughter lines successful the amusement is erstwhile she jokes that being asked whether she wanted a medication abortion oregon a process is similar being asked “Fries oregon salad?” Describing the acquisition of getting an abortion, oregon adjacent mentioning that you’ve had one, shouldn’t beryllium a immense revelation — yet it often is. (Further proving the point, politicians and celebrities who enactment termination rights regularly marque headlines for speaking candidly astir having had an termination themselves.)

Leiby acknowledges successful the amusement that her “frictionless” acquisition of accessing an abortion, arsenic a white, cisgender consecutive pistillate successful New York City, is not astatine each typical of the experiences of galore radical astir the country, particularly those who are astir affected by termination restrictions and outright bans. But it should beryllium representative, she said, and the details of her beingness successful the amusement exemplify “exactly wherefore it’s casual for me, and precisely wherefore it’s not casual for anyone who’s not me, and that’s what’s truly devastating astir what’s happening.”

If there’s 1 overarching extremity for the show, it’s to normalize the enactment of talking astir termination successful idiosyncratic terms, which Leiby sees arsenic intertwined with the authorities of abortion.

“Even I recovered it hard to archer people, bully friends of excavation with nary judgement whatsoever. It conscionable felt weird due to the fact that I was like, ‘Oh, this happening is truthful secretive, and we don’t speech astir this.’ It felt like, ‘I had an abortion,’” Leiby said, pausing dramatically betwixt each word. “Because we dainty it arsenic this large secret, [this] large deal, it lets the radical who disagree with it and privation to instrumentality distant our entree to it, it gives it much gravity than it needs to have.”

“I bash not mean to negate that determination are termination traumas that person thing to bash with access, and they are astir however idiosyncratic got large oregon wherefore they person to marque this decision,” she went on. “Those things, unfortunately, are adjacent bigger than this. But astatine slightest successful presumption of being capable to spell get one, it should beryllium very, precise casual for each azygous idiosyncratic who needs one.”

“If we can’t speech   astir  periods, and if we can’t speech   honestly astir  commencement  power  ... past    we can’t speech   astir  the bigger — to immoderate   radical   — much  aggravated  things similar  termination  and motherhood," Leiby says.
“If we can’t speech astir periods, and if we can’t speech honestly astir commencement power ... past we can’t speech astir the bigger — to immoderate radical — much aggravated things similar termination and motherhood," Leiby says.

Mindy Tucker

As a stand-up comedian, a batch of Leiby’s enactment draws from her ain observations and experiences, truthful determination was ne'er a question of whether she’d speech astir her abortion, she said. Soon aft the termination successful 2019, she began trying retired immoderate worldly successful her regular stand-up sets, ending up with astir 15 minutes of jokes and details astir the experience. From there, she realized “there’s a communicative present that’s bigger than this event.”

She started penning what became an hourlong amusement and trying it retired astatine venues astir New York successful precocious 2019 and aboriginal 2020. The process culminated successful a packed amusement astatine Union Hall successful Brooklyn connected March 2, 2020 (which she grimly jokes was astir surely a COVID-19 superspreader event). When the archetypal question of the pandemic shuttered drama venues, comedians got originative and started putting connected outdoor shows. But erstwhile again reinforcing 1 of the large themes of her show, she didn’t consciousness large astir trying retired the worldly outdoors.

“This conscionable isn’t the amusement I privation to shriek successful a park,” she said. “It’s truthful profoundly personal, and unluckily to immoderate radical inactive controversial, and it’s surely besides overmuch much adult. In wide daylight successful the mediate of Prospect Park, I was not going to beryllium doing this material.”

Once COVID-19 vaccines became wide disposable past spring, Leiby yet dusted disconnected the show, performing it again successful earnest. She besides kept tinkering with the structure, with the assistance of Lila Neugebauer, who directed the existent tally of the show. According to Leiby, Neugebauer particularly helped to “shape the parts that aren’t comedy,” since overmuch of the show’s poignance comes from Leiby trying to explicit immoderate hard truths that radical ought to speech astir more.

If the constituent of the amusement is that getting an termination is simply a regular and commonplace experience, wouldn’t it beryllium extremist to commencement with the abortion, alternatively than physique to it?

“My termination communicative is not the twist of the show. It is precise overmuch up front, truthful it doesn’t technically request to beryllium the end. But successful penning and rewriting, I was like, ‘Actually, yeah, I deliberation it does.’ And I started being like, ‘Well, however did we get here?’” Leiby said. “What is the amusement saying too this story, and too the commentary connected termination itself, and the value of it becoming accessible and casual for everybody?”

It was self-evident that “A Show About Abortion” really had to beryllium astir overmuch much than abortion. At 1 constituent successful the show, Leiby connects the stigma and the gravity attached to termination to the way, for example, aggressively alarmist mag covers pass cisgender women astir our ticking fertility clocks. She past unravels however societal and taste pressures presumption motherhood arsenic the default expectation, and however not wanting to beryllium a parent is inactive often perceived arsenic an aberration. It would astir apt beryllium easier to speech astir abortion, she says, if motherhood and womanhood weren’t truthful tied together, and if choosing to beryllium child-free weren’t truthful stigmatized and taxable to judgment.

For Leiby, that was adjacent much challenging to speech astir successful her amusement than the taxable of abortion. There’s the delicate dance, she said, of figuring retired “How bash I accidental the things I privation to say, but without alienating people?” ― specified arsenic making it wide that “I’m not trying to crap connected motherhood. I deliberation that it’s conscionable not for me.”

“I inactive deliberation the hardest enactment successful the amusement is saying that I don’t privation kids, due to the fact that you tin consciousness radical beryllium like, ‘Oh, really?’” she said. “That effect is ever well-intentioned — not that I perceive radical accidental that successful the crowd. But erstwhile you archer radical interpersonally ‘I don’t privation kids,’ they’re like, ‘Oh, but you would beryllium truthful great.’ It’s like, ‘OK, no, I wouldn’t.’”

“But that’s radical saying, ‘Oh, I similar you, and I would privation you to marque much you, and besides beryllium happy, and I presume that women tin lone beryllium blessed if they person babies.’ I deliberation that’s what radical are expressing erstwhile they are disappointed that you don’t privation kids,” she continued. “Then determination are radical that are like, ‘Oh, well, you conscionable don’t cognize until you person a kid.’ It’s like, ‘Yeah, but what if I don’t?’”

It’s telling that adjacent successful her show, Leiby has to warrant wherefore she’s definite she doesn’t privation kids ― with a comic spot astir however she couldn’t support a cactus alive, aft purchasing it astatine a store called GRDN. (“GRDN, we person a PRBLM,” she quips.)

“There shouldn’t request to beryllium 10 minutes of drama to travel that statement. But determination is due to the fact that I request to assistance you recognize why, truthful that you’re not feeling atrocious for me,” she said. “I deliberation that we inactive pity women who don’t person children, oregon accidental that they don’t privation children, successful a mode that’s like, ‘No, don’t. I’m good, I promise. I’m happy.’”

“If we unpack that worldly a spot more, past the thought of termination has little gravity,” Leiby said. “I deliberation portion of the treatment of termination that we miss is we’re specified a natalist culture, and we’re truthful obsessed with the atomic household and with motherhood and women having it each ― ‘all’ being babe and career.”

“I deliberation that’s conscionable not correct,” she went on. “If we tin unpack a small spot of that and destigmatize being child-free a small spot more, past termination conscionable makes much consciousness successful our culture, due to the fact that ‘Oh yes, of course, she doesn’t privation to beryllium a mother, and she ended up pregnant, and she should not person to be.’”

“Oh God, A Show About Abortion” runs done June 4 astatine the Cherry Lane Theatre successful New York.

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