#256: The Abortion Underground
The Abortion Counseling Service of Women’s Liberation, codenamed “Jane,” performed an estimated 11,000 low-cost abortions in Chicago in the years immediately preceding the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Jane began in 1969 as a counseling service that connected people with doctors willing to terminate their pregnancies. But soon enough, its members started assisting with the procedures, and by the end of 1971, were themselves providing as many as 90 abortions a week in addition to basic gynecological care. None of the Jane volunteers—all of them women—were doctors. They simply believed that women should take reproductive care into their own hands, as they had done for centuries prior to the advent of bans on abortion. In The Story of Jane, activist Laura Kaplan tells the story of the legendary service, of which she herself was a member.
Go beyond the episode:
- Laura Kaplan’s The Story of Jane
- Watch Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes’s 2022 documentary about the group, The Janes
- You still might be able to catch the new feature film Call Jane, directed by Phyllis Nagy, in theaters
- In December, the FDA permanently allowed abortion pills to be delivered by mail, which it had previously restricted
- New underground networks are smuggling abortion pills north across the Mexican border into Texas and California, from which they can be mailed anywhere in the United States
- Listen to “Free, Legal, On Demand,” our interview with Tamara Dean on the ubiquity—and safety—of 19th-century abortion
- Listen to our interview with Scott Stern about the decades-long U.S. government plan to imprison “promiscuous” women
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