Women’s rights are under attack all over the world due to a variety of factors. In some countries, women are treated as second-class citizens and are not afforded basic human rights. In other countries, there is a push to limit or restrict the rights of women. In some instances, laws are being passed that limit or take away rights that women have traditionally enjoyed. One of the main reasons why women’s rights are under attack is due to the push-back from religious and cultural norms.
Wisconsin abortion laws are some of the most restrictive in the United States. The state requires that any abortion performed after the 20th week of pregnancy must be performed in a hospital, and all abortions require parental consent for minors, and in some cases, judicial consent. There is also a 24-hour waiting period after a woman has informed her physician of her intention to get an abortion.
In Wisconsin, abortion is only legal if it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the pregnant woman, or if the fetus has a severe and irreversible abnormality or disability. Abortion is also legal if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Post-Roe, medication abortion and especially telehealth medication abortion have improved abortion access, especially for people living in states where it is banned or widely unavailable, said Dr. Julie Amaon, a family medicine physician and the medical director for the nonprofit Just the Pill, which launched in 2020 and connects patients with abortion pills via mail or mobile clinic in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, and Wyoming.
We caught up with TMI Project Executive Director Eva Tenato, Storyteller KT Kennedy, and our very own Tahyira Savanna.
EVA TENUTO is the co-founder and executive director of TMI Project. Since 2010, she has brought TMI Project from her living room to a host of performance spaces, schools, detention centers, mental health facilities and the United Nations. Eva is the editor and director of multiple solo shows, one of which was awarded Best Comedic Script of 2014 in the United Solo Festival. In 2018, her directorial film debut, Vicarious Resilience, a docu short, celebrated its world premiere at The Woodstock Film Festival. Eva’s own true stories have been published on Longreads.com and in numerous anthologies including Drinking Diaries, Goodbye to All That and others. Eva studied acting at American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She received a BA in Fine Art and Women’s Studies and an MA in Elementary Education, both from Hunter College. More at www.evatenuto.com.
TREMG News: Can you all share some of your personal experience at the event?
Eva: Bringing TMI Project’s program, Stories for Choice, to Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin was extraordinary. Wisconsin is one of the many states that stopped offering abortion services when Roe was overturned, but because of Planned Parenthood, it’s one of the only states that has been able to reinstate them. It was an honor to be in service of a group of people who just dedicated their lives for our collective freedom. The complexity of emotion in the room was palpable. Grief, exhaustion, outrage, sadness, and the joy of victory and success were all present.
I loved watching KT and Tahyira’s honesty, strength, vulnerability, and courage open up everyone in the room. It was clear that through sharing their stories, they sparked a truth-telling contagion as others hopped on board to share their lived experience as well. My hope is we will get to go back, help these heroes craft they own stories, and offer them a platform to share them. When we share our stories, we share the burdens we carry. No one should have to hold this weight alone.
KT Kennedy: Thank you so much for the incredibly powerful experience of inviting me to share my story to the planned parenthood staff of Wisconsin and being received with such generosity. I have never felt so celebrated and liberated sharing my reproductive health journey and bodily autonomy as I did speaking to the staff of planned parenthood Wisconsin. A true reflection of the audience – the very folks who do the work to make stories possible for so many others. Especially in this moment in time where abortion access in Wisconsin has been recently been made more accessible, I feel honored to have been a part of that room. It felt like a room of the folks who hear us most. My hope is that listeners will understand the deep importance of providing accessible and intersectional reproductive care- from our ancestors to us. Thank you again!
Tahyira Savanna: Today was spectacular. I am feeling all the love from Milwaukee, it is my first time in the city so I also get to tick off one of the states off my bucket list. I have a goal to travel throughout the United States, my own backyard as I call it. I never would have guess that telling this story would continually remain an impact. I’ve performed it over 10 times at different functions and events already but this one was intentional. Each audience is different but my words remain the same. My abortion story seems like its unimportant personally. The story has found a place in our current events. My experience back in 2007 was easier for me than it is for a current 20 year old in Wisconsin. It is never lost upon me during live readings. That reality makes me extremely sad to the point of low grade depression. As a feminist, any strikes against women rights hits me to my core. It is painful to hear about in the news cycle. I want young women in our nation to continue to be seen, be heard, and to be who they want to be. This is important work. KT kept whispering jokingly that I am doing God’s work, we all are in essence. I hate that I need to tell a very necessary story.
THE IMPACT OF STORYTELLING IN ACTIVISM
Storytelling has the power to influence people’s behavior and attitudes. People are more likely to remember stories than facts and figures. Stories make complex topics easier to understand, and they can help people to feel connected to a cause or a movement. Stories can also be used to inspire and motivate people, and to create a sense of urgency. The media creates narratives because it helps to shape public opinion and can influence people to think a certain way. Narratives give people a way to understand the world around them. They provide a framework to make sense of news stories, current events, and other information. TMI stands for “too much information” which is normally the parts of our story we omit. It is a way to end stigmas as it relates to mental health and awareness of humanity in general. We all feel like we are the only ones going through turmoil, or having negative feelings towards our personal lives. The more we encourage truth sharing, the more open our collective consciousness will become.