When the Oregon Shakespeare Festival asked playwright Lisa Loomer if she'd be interested in writing a play about Roe v. Wade, she was understandably skeptical. The 1973 Supreme Court decision, which legalized a woman's right to an abortion, marked a historic moment, but more than 40 years later the issue is far from settled.
Loomer says she wasn't sure Roe v. Wade would make good theater, so she started reading about key players on both sides of the issue. She says, "That, for me, was the story of the divide in American culture. I thought [Roe v. Wade] was a great prism for looking at that divide."
But Loomer knew her play needed to be even-handed. She says, "I wanted people to feel, as they watched the play, that their point of view was represented, if nothing else because that helps people be more open and willing to hear another point of view."
The result, Roe, is currently playing at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. It opens by introducing its two main characters: Norma McCorvey, aka "Jane Roe," the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, and Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who argued the Roe side of the case. McCorvey was a hard-living, hippie-ish 22-year-old who, in 1969, found herself poor and pregnant for a third time. The play shows her pleading with her doctor to give her an abortion. She tells him she tried to get it done illegally, but the place she went to "looked like a ghost town, like somebody'd moved out of there real fast. There was blood all over the floors, roaches, sheets like filthy rags."
Her doctor's response: "Maybe you should have thought about consequences before you got pregnant for a third time."