Using comedy to talk about abortion: Meet the Lady Parts Justice League

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“Not everyone who gets an abortion is traumatized, and many are very joyful and grateful that they had access to reproductive health care.”

Abortion is often regarded as a serious, weighty topic, and for good reason—reproductive health is a far-reaching issue that carries significant consequences for women around the world. But an organization called the Lady Parts Justice League is taking a new approach to the topic by using comedy to defend reproductive health and “fight back against abortion foes online and on the ground.”

Let’s be clear: the Lady Parts Justice League is not making light of attacks on women’s reproductive freedom. Rather, the team uses comedy as a strategic device to reframe parts of the reproductive rights discussion and engage people in new ways.

The League literally shows up for reproductive rights— they travel all over the United States, to communities where activists are engaged in hostile battles over reproductive health care access.

They will often perform comedy shows in these communities to rally support for activists and bring attention to the issues. They also produce videos that have attracted a lot of attention on social media

Their work is acknowledged across local communities. Erica Crowley of NARAL Pro-Choice CT had glowing things to share about the Lady Parts Justice League: "Every day, the providers at Hartford GYN Center experience extremist sidewalk protestors and the presence of a crisis pregnancy center…On a day-to-day basis we all do hard emotional work. Being with the Lady Parts Justice League for the weekend reminded us all that we can hold each other through the harder times, and that we can challenge hate with love, laughter, and a yellow brick road", said Erica Crowley.

HowToUseAbortionPill got a chance to catch up with Jenn Roman of the League to talk about the organization’s use of comedy as a strategy as well as the innovative work the League is doing in communities all over the US. A slightly edited version of that interview is below:

Jenn, thanks so much for taking the time to talk about the Lady Parts Justice League’s work. Tell us a little bit about why and how you use comedy to engage on reproductive rights issues.

We use comedy to talk about reproductive issues on social media and through our in-person comedy shows as a lighter way to let people know about the crazy stuff that’s going on in this country. People have become so exhausted since Trump took office, and rather than being another serious, depressing voice out there, being funny is an easier way to get info across. People find it refreshing.

The founder of our organization used to work at the Daily Show, and there’s actually a long history of exposing hypocrisy through comedy. With the subject of abortion, there is so much information to get across, and using comedy is a good way to get people to pay attention and keep them engaged. You’re laughing along but also learning.

There is so much stigma around abortion, even the word itself carries a negative connotation, so teaching people that you can laugh and have joy when it comes to this topic is important. Not everyone who gets an abortion is traumatized, and many are very joyful and grateful that they had access to reproductive health care.

What are some major initiatives the League has worked on recently?

Over the summer we visited 16 cities around the country and stopped by abortion clinics and organizations working on reproductive rights. We show up to help the staff with whatever they need, even if that means just being there to let them know that we care about their work and support them.

Other times we help organizations carry out specific efforts. For example, we showed up at the Hartford abortion clinic in Connecticut because a Crisis Pregnancy Center had recently moved in next door, and patients were getting confused. They were mistakenly walking into the fake clinic where they were at risk of being bombarded with false information about abortion. So we helped the Hartford clinic paint the path leading to the real clinic bright yellow. The staff then told patients they could “follow the yellow brick road” to the clinic.

At night, we often perform comedy shows in these communities. The point is to get the community out to celebrate the activists who are doing such critical work in these areas, as well as raise awareness of about reproductive rights issues. At the end of the show, we do a “talk about” session that includes an educational component so people can learn more about what’s going on and how they can help.

How are you usually received in these communities? Do you ever encounter resistance?

For the most part, we are received very well. There are a handful of protestors that often show up, but that’s par for the course. What’s really astounding is the amount of energy we see at the shows and the clinics.

People get so amped up when they’re in a room together because they realize there are more like-minded people living in their communities than they thought. This community-building aspect is so important.

What else do you have planned for the coming year?

We’re really proud of our Expose Fake Clinics campaign and hope to ramp up those efforts in 2018. We started this campaign a year ago, in conjunction with 40 other reproductive rights organizations and allies, to document and raise awareness of Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs).

The thing is, a lot of people don’t realize that these fake clinics are in their communities. There are about 4,000 CPCs across the U.S. but fewer than 800 real abortion clinics. There’s a much greater chance you have a fake clinic than a real one in your community.

Our awareness campaign has had a huge impact. No one was talking about this before, and now we see articles about CPCs in the news all the time. There’s also a lot of talk on social media, and people have been organizing around CPCs—the topic really energizes and engages people, because it’s just so outrageous that these places are allowed to exist basically to trick and deceive vulnerable women.

We also plan to go on another tour and keep producing our videos, which have reached a wide variety of people on social media. We want to do more of what we’ve been doing as far as showing up for our allies, using comedy to engage folks on these issues, and bring awareness to communities all over the country.

To learn more about the Lady Parts Justice League, visit their website.

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