Susan Lynsey

Living history: ‘Roe’ in Ashland

Watching Lisa Loomer's play about politics and abortion in an era of shifting restrictions and loyalties

By SUZI STEFFEN

If you don’t go see Lisa Loomer’s new play Roe at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I predict that you’ll be seeing it soon elsewhere, perhaps many elsewheres.

That’s because the subject of Roe is topical (when will it not be?), and the play is mostly enjoyable as a piece of theater. It happens to have strong roles for several women, a rarity among plays old and new alike, along with a satisfyingly obvious source of conflict, embodied in the second act by a physical space shared by an abortion-providing women’s health clinic and an office of the anti-abortion direct action group Operation Rescue.

As I write this review, the Supreme Court of the United States has just ruled on Whole Woman’s Health et al. v. Hellerstadt (which does not trip off the tongue as does Roe v. Wade, of course), another case that got to the SCOTUS from Texas. Whole Woman concerns several Texas laws that attempted to curtail almost to nothing any possibility for health clinics to perform abortions for any women in that massive,  massively populated state.

A major Roe v. Wade anniversary puts Norma McCorvey (Sara Bruner) and Sarah Weddington (Sarah Jane Agnew) back in the public eye. Photo: Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

A major Roe v. Wade anniversary puts Norma McCorvey (Sara Bruner) and Sarah Weddington (Sarah Jane Agnew) back in the public eye. Photo: Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

A quick check of the Guttmacher Institute shows that all 50 states – Oregonians happen to live in the least restrictive state, but our state does allow individuals and private medical facilities to refuse to perform abortions – have policies and laws restricting abortion access in a variety of ways, for a variety of reasons.

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