By Dave Andrusko
While preparing to write today’s stories, I ran across “Please Laugh About My Abortion With Me” which ran in 2022. And while Alison Leiby wasn’t kidding, I wondered what the audience’s response was to her one-woman “comedy.”
Prior to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe, Alison Leiby tells us that “When I started performing the show at a tiny theater in Queens and at bars around the city, there were a lot of bombs and uncomfortable silences. Just saying the word ‘abortion’ can quiet a room. I saw crossed arms and scowls when I would dip my toe into my abortion material.”
On that Friday after Roe was overturned, I stepped out onto the stage, and the energy was not somber at all. I was greeted by a room full of people ready to laugh. In a world that’s still so often defined by remote work and food delivery, that evening provided a sense of community for everyone there, including me.
I’ll have to take Leiby’s word on that.
She tells us she’d worked on her material for more than three years. “I had recently had an abortion, and in processing my experience I started writing jokes.”
The heart of her Apologia Pro Vita Sua begins with a belief that
a lot of people appear to relate to my story. I talk in the show about how I feel bad about not feeling bad about my abortion. I talk about how hard it is to be a woman who doesn’t want children in a culture that doesn’t make room for us outside of a few depressing stereotypes. I talk about how surprisingly simple my abortion experience was, despite the fact that every corner of our society told me it would be an overwhelming tragedy. I get messages from audience members all the time telling me they were delighted or relieved to see something they have felt or experienced accurately reflected back at them, without apology
“Without apology.” That is the unattainable goal of so many abortion stories. Perhaps Leiby doesn’t feel regret, but countless women do. They feel terrible, but if they can find a support group that tells them that abortion is “surprisingly simple,” perhaps they can quiet their nagging conscience.
To be sure, Leiby acknowledges
that not everyone wants to approach abortion with jokes. I understand it feeling too soon to laugh in the wake of Roe being overturned, and I understand people whose experiences were traumatic. But for those who are up for it, I think having a healthy sense of humor — one that is predicated on personal vulnerability — is an extremely valuable coping mechanism in these dark days of American culture.
I wonder how well her “comping mechanisms” would function if she honestly confronted what happened to her unborn child, who is only ever-so-briefly mentioned?
Suctioning out a baby’s body, lopping off limbs, crushing skulls, injecting poison…the killing fields are filled with the remains of over 64 million children.
Only in the most twisted mind could that be reduced to a joke.