As the issue of abortion rights takes the national spotlight, a new play now running in the Chicago area offers an in-depth look at abortion and a person’s right to choose.
“The Billboard,” a book-turned-play, follows a fictional health clinic in Englewood at the center of a political race and fight for reproductive rights. It was written by WBEZ reporter Natalie Moore.
“There are two billboards. One is an anti-abortion billboard that likens abortion to genocide and says the most dangerous place for a Black child is the mother’s womb, and it’s put up by somebody running for City Council in the Englewood neighborhood, and then a fictional Black women’s health clinic puts up its own billboard that says abortion is self-care, hashtag Trust Black women,” said Moore. “Black women have the right to make decisions for their families. And on that billboard is a picture of three smiling Black women, so this hasn’t been a depiction of abortion that people have seen, and so that billboard becomes controversial.”
Moore said she also wanted to showcase the role of social media in the debate over abortion rights, and have an intraracial conversation about abortion.
“I think I could have probably picked any South Side neighborhood, but part of the theme here is who gets to speak for a community, and so you have dueling visions about what happens to a community that’s been disinvested for so long, and that becomes a boiling point also in the play,” said Moore.
Moore began writing “The Billboard” in 2018. Four years later, abortion rights is a front and center issue in the U.S., after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
“I think it’s going to hit deeper. Plays in general have a certain immediacy to them, and that’s the hallmark of the genre, but now there’s an urgency,” said Moore. “Before the leak came out with the decision, there was a completely different lack of conversation that was happening. The day after, the public discourse has changed and that has continued to ramp up to where we are today with the overturn.”
In “The Billboard”, Moore makes a point to highlight a wide-range of abortion stories and different reasons why women choose the procedure.
“You have so much time in a play, just like we’re doing news stories, so everything you say has to be intentional and making a point, so I wanted to highlight that there is no single abortion story,” Moore said. “So there are three women who have three very different stories.”
“The Billboard” is running now at Northwestern University’s Abbott Hall through July 17.