The anti-choice movement is up in arms over my play, MOM BABY GOD, and I have a simple message for them: Bring it on. We’re not backing down.
Based on two years of immersive undercover research on the anti-choice movement, MOM BABY GOD explores the resurgent attack on reproductive rights and, especially, the student arm of the anti-choice movement. As firm believers that live theater can be an important tool for social change, the MOM BABY GOD team (myself, director Emma Weinstein and designer and production manager Allison Smartt), decided to take the show on tour across the country this fall to engage audiences in urgent conversations about the escalating attack on reproductive freedoms.
Little did we know, while we were on tour performing for enthusiastic crowds, Students for Life of America was busy plotting a smear campaign against the show. In an article in National Review attacking the show, Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins admitted that she sent a male Students for Life representative undercover to our sold-out New York City premiere, wearing state-of-the-art spy glasses to illegally film the show. Hawkins now claims that Students for Life won’t release the footage because it is “too vulgar to release to the general public.”
The show follows Jessica Beth Giffords, a 15-year-old girl who is equal parts Justin Bieber superfan and aspiring pro-life celebrity, as she attends the Students for Life of America Conference. Throughout the hour-long solo performance, Jessica interacts with six other characters based on real-life pro-life activists, from crisis pregnancy center directors to ministers to self-described “pro-life feminists”. We follow her as she absorbs the misinformation in an abstinence-only “sexual purity” workshop and struggles to contain her crush on a popular and flirtatious Christian boy who sports a purity ring. This sexual struggle and the notion that girls and women can embody sexual desire outside of the context of heterosexual marriage is precisely what Students for Life finds so vulgar.
I would argue that the only “vulgarity” in MOM BABY GOD is the very right-wing politics that Students for Life champions. And far from being an embellished send-up of the right-wing, I found no need in MOM BABY GOD to exaggerate the tactics and rhetoric I encountered within the anti-choice movement.
Since the 2011 congressional attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, I have been immersing myself in the anti-choice movement. Inspired by the NARAL investigations of crisis pregnancy centers and by theater that puts real people’s voices and stories onstage, I began to craft a solo show that asked the questions, “How, forty years after Roe v. Wade, have we lost so much ground?” And, of perhaps more importance, “What are we going to do to fight back?”