Personal stories of sex, politics fill ‘Birthright’ 

In “Birthright,” women and girls bravely take the stage to share stories about abortion, rape, sexual abuse, drug addiction, HIV testing and the importance of family planning.

The show, onstage at Brava Theater Center in The City, is co-sponsored by Planned Parenthood and The Medea Project, a 25-year-old theater group created by Rhodessa Jones dedicated to incarcerated women and their concerns.

For artistic director Jones, “Birthright” is deeply personal. Her mother was pregnant 19 times. Twelve of her children survived.

"I found out much later in my mother's life that she really only wanted two children," says Jones. "She wanted to be a nurse, but her life was based on religious training and she was taught how to be a dutiful wife. What if she had rights? What is birthright? We have the right to decide what kind of healthcare we need and that includes abortion. We have to continue to fight."

While the stories in “Birthright” might make some people uncomfortable, they need to be told, particularly at a time when politicians are passing laws restricting access to abortion and basic healthcare.

According to a study released by the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, 53 provisions restricting access to abortion have been approved in the U.S. in 2015, and nine had been enacted as of April 1. Today, 27 states are considered hostile to abortion rights.

“Birthright” gives a voice to women and girls (who have declined to give their last names) affected by these constraints.

When Tavia was in fifth grade at Thurgood Marshall Elementary school in Oakland, she was raped in the bathroom. "I stayed in the bathroom until school was over," she says. "And no one paid attention."

Cassandra says she became mute after her rape, a crime unspeakable and shameful: "I am healing the memories of being raped as a young girl. My life is beginning to make more sense to me."

Stella says she had an abortion because there was no amount of abuse she was willing to put up with in a father. She learned that almost every woman she knew had had the procedure, and every woman's experience is different. "I learned that every time I pass Planned Parenthood and see the protesters outside, I will go into the clinics and give the front desk 10 bucks.”

“Birthright” is a collaboration between Jones’ Cultural Odyssey (an arts group presenting The Medea Project) and Planned Parenthood Northern California, which has 27 clinics in 20 counties offering STD testing and treatment, HIV testing, cancer screenings and contraception as well as abortions.

IF YOU GO

Birthright

Presented by Cultural Odyssey and Planned Parenthood Northern California

Where: Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; closes April 19

Tickets: $10 to $30

Contact: (415) 641-7657, www.brava.org

Note: Tickets to a gala performance April 11 are $40-$50.

About The Author

Rose Aguilar

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