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Theatric Performance Aims to Reduce Abortion Stigma for KY Women

Cast and crew of the Kentucky storytelling project "The Abortion Monologues." (Jess Wren)
Cast and crew of the Kentucky storytelling project "The Abortion Monologues." (Jess Wren)
June 20, 2019

LEXINGTON, Ky. – A grassroots storytelling production focused on women's experiences with abortion performs its final show of the season Thursday night in Lexington.

A few years ago, when Kentucky was left with only one abortion provider after a Lexington clinic closed, Stacie Sexton started "The Abortion Monologues," a theater-based storytelling project that aims to lessen the stigma for women who wanted to share stories related to choosing – or not choosing – to terminate a pregnancy.

"You know, this is a storytelling project, but it became even more important to tell these stories and talk about the fact that access had been reduced to one clinic – one clinic serving the entire state – because the Planned Parenthoods in Kentucky don't perform abortions," she relates.

In the early 1990s, Kentucky had nine abortion clinics. It is now one of seven states with only one provider.

That facility, located in Louisville, has recently been at the forefront of a legal battle involving a law, passed in 2017 and signed by Gov. Matt Bevin, mandating that doctors in Kentucky show patients an ultrasound and describe it in detail before performing an abortion.

The American Civil Liberties Union argues the legislation violates doctors' free speech rights.

With "The Abortion Monologues," Sexton says anyone, regardless of her or his views on the procedure, is welcome to work with the production to share individual stories.

"We did have a story of regret this year,” Sexton states. “She was an international student that studied here in Kentucky, and she became pregnant. She actually wanted to have her baby 100%, but her family basically forced her into having an abortion.

“She mentioned in her story that she's still pro-choice. Even though she didn't want to have an abortion, she supports other people's rights to have it, because abortion is illegal in her country."

Because the rhetoric surrounding abortion has become increasingly fierce and contentious, Sexton says people often forget that women who have chosen to have an abortion are women they know – their daughters, mothers and aunts and even grandmothers.

She says one of this season's most powerful stories comes from a granddaughter who wanted to tell the story of her grandmother, who died from a botched self-abortion more than half a century ago.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY