Here in New York, which voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in the last election, it's still somewhat easy to ignore that most states in America remain deep red, and battles over issues like abortion rights are raging. But blue state New Yorkers who want to make an impact elsewhere can do so now while also taking in some culture, thanks to The Jane Roe Players, a new theater group with plans to put on shows to fund abortion access nationwide.
The Jane Roe Players will debut tonight at The Cobra Club in Bushwick, with a series of play readings at the bar. And unlike most theater readings which only go to fatten the wallets of well-off playwrights, the money from this event will go towards the West Fund, which funds access to abortions for people who need it.
Ben Firke, the founder of the group, explained that the impetus for the Jane Roe Players was the anger and helplessness that came out of the election, especially what would happen to women's access to abortion. "I wanted to channel that frustration into something productive, that would could directly and materially impact people's lives," he told Gothamist.
Firke said he was also inspired to give to the West Fund after learning about it during the campaign to raise money for the group through the sale of "Ted Cruz Is The Zodiac Killer" t-shirts. "There are a lot of financial obstacles to getting an abortion," Firke told us, "and so there's an emerging consciousness to the role of local abortion fundraising."
The West Fund itself doesn't provide abortions, but instead helps to arrange travel and other expenses for women in Texas, who often have to travel hundreds of miles just to get to an abortion clinic after the passage of the anti-abortion HB2 legislation in the state. "I think it's ridiculous that there are so many obstacles to get a legal medical procedure," Firke said.
Firke also told us the group's mission in part is a rejection of the attitude that has popped up around the internet that suggests people in red states should just be left behind. "The attitude that if you live in a red state you should somehow be denied social services or you're worth less to society, it's a really elitist attitude I don't like. Beyond politics, you've got the same rights to essential health services no matter where you live," Firke told us. "As a socialist myself, it's very un-socialist to say we want a universal basic income but only for leftists."
Still, Firke was quick to say he doesn't see this as "a blue state bailout of red states." Instead, he said he envisions The Jane Roe Players growing into an amorphous nationwide movement with local cells that raise money for abortion access close to home and in states that could use the help. "If people want to do a Jane Roe Players but it's a film festival or basement punk show, great. Hopefully this will get the ball rolling and inspire people to take some initiative to do it on their own. As long as lots of money is being raised for these charities, great."