- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Between 1969 and 1973, the years preceding Roe v. Wade, women with unwanted pregnancies found out about "Jane" -- the code name for a Chicago-based, underground feminist abortion service -- through word of mouth. Friends mentioned Jane, or sympathetic doctors did. Fliers posted in cities read: "Pregnant? Don't want to be? Call Jane: 643-3844." Callers reached volunteers so concerned about the lack of safe, affordable abortions that they risked 20-year prison sentences in order to help.
Laura Kaplan, who joined the organization in 1971, calls her new book, The Story of Jane, "a collective memoir." It's also an absorbing evocation of ingenuity and courage. Having interviewed roughly half of more than a hundred of Jane's former staffers, Kaplan constructs a vivid account of its development. She shows us a discussion group of newly-liberated students and housewives in "an era in which simply providing information about abortion was a criminal act," then follows Jane's evolution from a referral service into a complex and highly secretive collaborative group that employed its own skilled abortionist. When that abortionist turned out not to be a physician, some Jane members quit, but others took it as a sign: "If he can do it, then we can do it, too." Several did. In motel rooms and apartments, these women boiled instruments, induced miscarriages, explained contraception, and aimed to ensure that everyone treated felt she had control over the procedure.
Also figuring in Jane's story are police raids, the Mob, the homicide squad, divisive inner politics, and the Supreme Court, whose legalization of abortion led to the group's dissolution. Kaplan employs pseudonyms throughout, but she relates the history expertly, capturing the personalities, the blood, the sorrow, and the exhilaration of Jane's selfless work. -- Salon