The Turnaway Play
The Turnaway Play looks at what really happens when women are denied access to abortion. The play is inspired and informed by the groundbreaking Turnaway Study, which followed 1,000 women over ten years and reached the first definitive scientific conclusions about the consequences for women’s lives of either having or being denied abortions. The study was headed by my real-life sister, Diana Greene Foster, and the characters are based on study subjects and members of the research team. With honesty and humor, the play reaches beyond our polarizing political conversation to look deeply into one of the most important and urgent issues of our time.
Learn more about the play on New Play Exchange.
History & Development
The Turnaway Play was a bit of an unintended child. My sister is Dr. Diana Greene Foster, lead researcher of The Turnaway Study. When her study was turned into a book, she asked me to create a short theatrical treatment—she wanted people to hear from women who participated in the study, and she didn't want to do all the talking at her book signings. Unfortunately, the book was published in 2020, and there was no book tour. But the idea of a play had taken hold. As part of my research, I interviewed many of the women who worked for the study. Luisa, Serena, and Rhonda are fictional characters, but I drew on the stories I was told. Thank you to Claire, Mattie, Danielle, Ivette, Janine, Heather, and especially Selena, for sharing with me. The character Dr. Foster has a lot in common with my sister, but she wouldn't put things quite the way this character does. The other characters in the play are women who participated in the study, and the words they speak are their own.
The play has received workshops and public readings at the Kitchen Theatre Company in May 2022, at HartBeat Ensemble in December 2022, at Ithaca College in October 2022, at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) in January 2023, and at the Society of Family Planning Annual Meeting in Seattle in October 2023. If you are interested in producing this play, please contact me!
Society of Family Planning, Seattle: Ally Poole, Montana Hoover, Emily Mesa, Erika Christensen
HartBeat Ensemble: Debra Walsh, Casey Wortham, Caitlin Zoz, Martha Lorena Preve
Ithaca College: Maya McCullough (director), Carolyn Best, AnnaJo Lubasi, Erica Reyes, Ifeoma Ihuoma
ANSIHR: Maryani Palupy Rasidjan, Lori Freedman, Finley Baba, Miriam Parra
first workshop: Erica Steinhagen, Emily Mesa, Erin Lockett, Marissa Accordino
The Turnaway Play was inspired by The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, a Thousand Women, and the Consequences of Having—Or Being Denied—An Abortion by Diana Greene Foster, PhD. Dr. Foster (sister of the playwright) is involved in the development of the play.
About The Turnaway Study
What happens when a woman seeking an abortion is turned away? To answer this question, Diana Greene Foster assembled a team of scientists—psychologists, epidemiologists, demographers, nurses, physicians, economists, sociologists, and public health researchers—to conduct a ten-year study. They followed a thousand women from across America, some of whom received abortions, some of whom were turned away.
Judges, politicians, and pro-life advocates routinely defend their anti-abortion stance by claiming that abortion is physically risky and leads to depression and remorse. Dr. Foster’s data proves the opposite to be true. Foster documents the outcomes for women who received and were denied an abortion, analyzing the impact on their mental and physical health, their careers, their romantic relationships, and their other children, if they have them. The Turnaway Study offers the first thorough, data-driven examination of the negative consequences for women who cannot get abortions and provides incontrovertible evidence to refute the claim that abortion harms women.
Yvonne Fisher, LMHC
“I really loved the play. It's so vital and important. It's difficult to make scientific data theatrical but somehow, it really worked."
Peg J., abortion provider
"It was so good to witness the wonderful collaboration of theatre and research. We all thought it was very effective, evidenced by the conversation generated afterwards. Thank you for a great conversation, which is exactly what we need."
Alison Fromme, writer
“ Turning a scientific study into a play is such a creative challenge and you really pulled it off. I appreciated that the play reflected the real reasons women seek abortions and not the extreme cases. I learned a lot!”