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Taboo-breaking work that gives both sides of argument fair say

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By Lisa Hallgarten

Abortion is going to be on everybody's lips this year. The UK Abortion Act was passed 50 years ago. Alongside the Family Planning Act, also passed in 1967, it has transformed women's lives, making them full participants in the social, economic and political life of the country and has, as was the primary intention of the Act, saved women's lives.

The majority of people agree that abortion should be legal and safe. One in three women will have one, and of the other two a significant proportion will have faced the dilemma of an unintended pregnancy sometime during their fertile lives. Yet the right to abortion is still contested.

Anti-abortion protesters in the US are insistent, sometimes violent, occasionally deadly. In 2015 three people were murdered at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado by a man who called himself "pro-life". This begs the question - is there a way in this 50th anniversary year to make this less of a battle and more of a conversation?

One theatre group in Liverpool thinks it is. A play that does just that has been imagined, devised and will soon be performed in towns and cities all over England and in Northern Ireland - the only country in the UK without legal abortion, where taking perfectly safe abortion medication can still land you in jail.

I Told MyMum I Was Going On An RE Trip, written by Julia Samuels, eschews the more sympathetic 'voices of women who've had abortions' version of drama.

Those voices are clearly heard in the play, but so are the voices of doctors who will and who won't provide abortions, abortion opponents, young men struggling with their role in this decision and young women who would never contemplate abortion. This form of theatre is able to voice both sides of the debate with integrity. It encourages discussion, argument, and reflection. It doesn't presume to have an answer, but celebrates the debate in all its mess and complexity.

When women seeking abortion are targeted outside clinics, when anti-abortion protesters' tactics are to intimidate and maximise distress, it feels a bit too much like war. For those of us who want to engage in this debate, theatre like I Told My Mum... is a brilliant place to start.

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