Remarkably Normal: the true stories of abortion in America

The 1 in 3 campaign collects the true personal stories of the roughly 30% of American women who've had an abortion; Remarkably Normal, a play whose actors recounts those stories, wrapped up its first national tour in June.

It's at least the second play of its kind; Out of Silence, an earlier 1-in-3 project, was performed on campuses across American in 2015, and proved out the model for Remarkably Normal. Both plays are reminiscent of Eve Ensler's groundbreaking Vagina Monologues, which dramatized the real-world stories of women's experiences of their own sexuality and bodies, and which has been performed and adapted in uncountable ways, spawning a political movement whose most daring moments was a series of public demonstrations in Ciudad Juarez at a time when the border town led the world in rapes and murders of women, who were hunted with impunity by monstrous local officials and businessmen.

Central to the plays' impact is a talkback segment following the performance, in which the audience collectively engages with the subject matter, discussing their own experiences and thoughts inspired by the play.

Remarkably Normal toured at a time when GOP state governments have passed restrictive -- and totally unconstitutional -- laws that resulted in the shuttering of clinics that women relied upon for abortion and general reproductive health care, including cancer screening. In Texas alone, at least 100,000 women induced their own abortions after the state passed its rogue law. More than half of all women who procure an abortion are already mothers and are making choices to safeguard the welfare of their children; restrictive abortions disproportionately affect the reproduction of racialized and poor women.

The conversations sparked by Remarkably Normal and Out of Silence are creating an outlet for women, an avenue to discuss a facet of our lives that we are implicitly taught to keep secret. We still have a dire need for these spaces; what else could explain the swiftness with which abortion-related Twitter hashtags go viral? In September 2015, for instance, following an increase of attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, former Jezebel writer Lindy West—inspired by her friend Amelia Bonow—tweeted, “Don’t whisper, #ShoutYourAbortion.” Within a single day, the hashtag was trending, with scores of women using Twitter to document their reasons for terminating pregnancy. The overwhelming response demonstrated that if women have a platform to speak, an abortion can immediately shift from taboo into something that thousands of strangers have in common, a shared experience they don’t regret, something that’s reflected in numerous other Twitter hashtags of recent years: #YesAllWomen, #WhyIStayed, and #NoWomanEver. And when Gormezano was drafting Remarkably Normal, she reviewed approximately 1,800 pages of interviews and story submissions from the 1 in 3 Campaign—a number that demonstrates just how eager women are to talk.

Predictably, though, both Remarkably Normal and Out of Silence have been received with criticism from right-wing media. As recently as 2004, The Vagina Monologues was referred to as a disgusting, graphic, feminist attack. In May, anti-choice site Life News published an article claiming that Remarkably Normal promotes the murder of innocent babies, and there is “nothing normal about that.”

Bronte Burnette, a 20-year old political science major who directed a production of Out of Silence at the University of Montana, said that her cast and crew became the subject of numerous local news stories after a reporter from the town’s NBC-affiliate saw angry Facebook commenters demanding to know if the play was funded by the college. “[The station] contacted the university and contacted our faculty director. It became this huge investigative thing about how we were paying for this,” she said. “We had to show that Advocates for Youth gave us the money and paid for everything.” On the day of the opening performance, Burnette said she woke up to an inbox full of emails from news outlets attempting to reveal something “corrupt” about the play.

1 in 3: These Are Our Stories [Advocates for Youth/DRM-free ebook]


The Vagina Monologues, But For Abortion
[Rachel Sanoff/Jezebel]