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'No One Asked You': How comedy can support abortion clinics & bust stigma

Courtesy of "No One Asked You"
Comedian Lizz Winstead (front, left) sits with other members of Abortion Access Front and fellow protestors in Washington D.C.

This week the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the state must adhere to 160-year-old law banning nearly all abortions. It’s the latest state to peel back abortion access since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

A new documentary called No One Asked You follows comedian Lizz Winstead (co-creator The Daily Show) and her Abortion Access Front group made up of activists, writers, producers, and fellow comedians who use humor to destigmatize abortion and fight against anti-abortion groups nationwide.

The documentary follows the group’s seven year journey, including a stop in Milwaukee, that puts abortion providers and clinic volunteers in the spotlight.

For director Ruth Leitman, the idea for No One Asked You began the day after the 2016 presidential election. "I'm watching MSNBC, as I was often, and there would be Lizz [Winstead] talking about what was happening in abortion access, except now things were about to get much worse," she recalls.

Feeling that she needed some levity as a way to cope with the issues at hand, Leitman reached out to The Abortion Access Front to ask permission to accompany them and film their work. This started with their Vagical Mystery Tour, which Leitman describes as "a 16-city USO-meets-Habitat For Humanity tour across the Midwest and southern battleground states. From acting as a buffer between abortion clinic volunteer escorts to painting the insides of clinics, writing encouraging notes, to planting trees, the Vagical Mystery Tour centered the providers.

"We decided to follow Lizz and Abortion Access Front as centering comedy, and using comedy and outrage as a way to bring people together and bring empathy, and love, and joy to something that’s really hard every day," explains Leitman.

Milwaukee filmmaker Susan Kerns got involved with the project during the Garbage Fyre Festival here in Milwaukee. "It was really kind of an amazing moment I felt for Milwaukee to kind of rally behind this film. Because we literally had teams of filmmakers in different parts of the city covering not just the comedy shows but also the protests that were happening," she recalls.

Kerns says that she believes No One Asked You approaches abortion, and all the issues that branch off from the topic, in a valuable way. "One of the things I really appreciate about the film is that when the comics are going to the clinics, they're asking the kinds of questions that I feel are relatable to me," she explains. "They're not asking from, like, the perspective of a politician or from the perspective of like a news anchor."

Despite the constant changing landscape of abortion rights across the nation, Leitman wants people to walk away from this film knowing they can make a difference. "Well, what we want people to walk away from the film is that they can be a part of the solution and they need to be," she says. "There's so many different things that people can do, and that men really need to get involved in this fight. So anyone and everyone can do something."

Kerns adds, "I am very heartened that it does seem like some of those conversations [about abortion] are changing, and people are more willing to engage with it as not just normal, but an important part of healthcare that we need to have available to anyone who needs it."

Ruth Leitman, Susan Kerns and comedian Lizz Winstead will be in attendance for the screening of "No One Asked You" for the Milwaukee Film Festival this Saturday, April 13, 2024, at the Downer Theatre. Leitman and Kerns will also be in attendance for the Sunday, April 14, 2024, screening at the Avalon Theater.


Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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