Real voices talk of reproductive rights

Date : Thursday, March 11, 2004
Source : Akron Beacon Journal 

Sticks and stones may break bones, but words are more effective.

Take Emily Lyons, for instance. She was maimed by a pipe bomb planted in 1998 at the Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic where she worked as a nurse. Eric Rudolph, who also is charged with the 1996 Olympic Park bombing and two others, awaits trial.

”Prior to this, I did not feel like I was in a war. That has all changed. And, the war has not stopped,” said Lyons.

Although it was intended to kill her, the violence committed against Lyons ultimately gave her a voice with which to fight the attack on a woman’s right to choose her method of birth control.

It’s a voice represented in playwright Cindy Cooper’s Words of Choice, a dramatic patchwork pieced together with excerpts from a dozen real stories, including a father’s reaction to the rape of his daughter, an anti-abortion activist’s spoken-word piece, testimony from a mother who made the painful decision to have a late-term abortion, and a farcical contraceptive burrito marketed by Taco Bell.

”I wanted to create a work that could show the huge panorama of reproductive rights, not just abortion,” said Cooper. ”I wanted it to reflect the full complexity of these issues.”

Words of Choicewill be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron and at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Kent State University’s Oscar Ritchie Hall.

Proceeds from the performances will benefit the Akron Coalition for the March to Save Women’s Lives, who will use the money to pay travel costs for women traveling from Akron to Washington, D.C., for the April 25 march.

Deb Lumiere, the director and producer of the local Words of Choice production and a principal actor in it, sees current efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade and to legislate fetal rights as an immediate threat to women’s rights, making this play a timely commentary.

”We lose focus of the whole point in pro-life vs. pro-choice arguments. This is not about abortion itself, and it is not an issue of right or wrong — that is a personal decision. It’s about who has control over your body, as a woman. It’s about your legal personhood and the way it is defined by the law,” said Lumiere.

In one of the play’s more harrowing moments, a father recounts his decision to help his daughter get an abortion after she was abducted and gang-raped. By including such a voice, Cooper’s play realizes that women’s rights are not isolated to their direct effect on women, but that men, too, are part of the larger public discussion on reproductive rights.

”It was happenstance that I included a male voice,” said Cooper. ”But I’m glad I did, because, especially among younger women, it’s a positive reinforcement that men do care about women, and that we aren’t divided by gender.”

Cooper spent three years collecting stories from spoken words, court testimonies, journalism, poetry and even comedy.

”It’s theater’s version of the reality TV show; that is what makes it effective,” said Lumiere. ”And that it’s coming from all these different places and different types of people. It creates a truer picture rather than having one little spin on it.”

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