Segments in this Video

Abortion in the 1960s (03:48)


A woman recalls speaking to the mob in code to obtain an abortion and having the procedure done in a hotel room, along with another young woman. See images of daily life.

Defying the Law (07:41)

In most states during the 1960s, abortion is illegal. Members of "Jane" discuss evading the Chicago mafia and police to help other women in need, civil rights demonstrations, voting rights protests, and women's rights.

Septic Abortion Ward (06:01)

A woman recalls helping a classmate after an abortion. A former Cook County Hospital medical student reflects on women taking desperate measures to disrupt pregnancies and resulting injuries. The police arrest Dr. Howard and a member of "Jane" searches for another doctor; she discovers Mike.

Under Surveillance (04:35)

The Red Squad monitors social change, civil rights, and movement activists in Chicago. Michael E. and "Jane" members discuss the anti-war movement. Violence erupts at Grant Park during the 1968 Democratic Convention.

Male-Dominated Society (05:20)

Michael E. and "Jane" members reflect on the lack of attention on women's rights. The Chicago Women's Liberation Union forms to promote equality; women's groups around the country address abortion. A woman shares her abortion experience.

Creating "Jane" (05:15)

Heather Booth and Eleanor Oliver recruit several women to work on abortion counseling. The group runs a recurring ad in an underground paper. Members reflect on messages women left and the 3x5 cards containing pregnancy details.

Abortion Counseling (06:04)

Members of "Jane" discuss counseling women. After a session, a woman receives an address to "the front" that functions as a waiting room; Mike performs the abortion at "the place." Women pay what they can for an abortion.

Underground Abortions (06:20)

Members of "Jane" reflect on trust and the illegal activities involved with abortion. The locations of "the front" and "the place" change weekly. Judith and Michael E. recall a threatening phone call.

Medical and Religious Power (06:12)

Jody and Ruth are the parental figures of "Jane." Jody recalls fighting to get a legal abortion. "Jane" members reflect on finding people to perform safe abortions and the role of the Catholic Church.

Clergy Consultation Service (07:58)

The organization publicly supports a woman's right to choose; it serves women with the economic means to travel for an abortion. New York legalizes abortion in 1970. "Jane" serves middle- and low-income women; members reflect on class issues. A woman recalls accompanying her friend to an abortion.

Women's Movement (10:04)

Protestors for and against abortion march on the streets. "Jane" members reflect on Mike's medical background and learning to perform procedures themselves. A woman recalls going to "Jane" for an abortion.

Responsibility and Impact (04:20)

"Jane" members recall a 19-year-old woman who arrived with an infection and fled when they refused to perform an abortion; she died from septicemia. "Jane" performs nearly 30 abortions a day, three times a week; Jody steps away from the organization.

Busting Jane (10:56)

"Jane" members reflect on feeling safe from criminal prosecution. A Chicago police officer recalls two women asking police to stop an abortion. Despite reluctance, the homicide unit gets involved and makes arrests.

Women's Lockup (04:31)

Members of "Jane" wait in the only jail for women in Chicago. Michael E. obtains the lowest possible bail for Judith and plans to use it as a basis for setting the bail of the other women.

People of Illinois vs. (09:22)

Despite arrests, "Jane" remains busy. The arrested members are charged with 11 counts of abortion and conspiracy to commit abortion. Attorney Jo-Anne Wolfson takes their case. The Supreme Court legalizes abortion in January 1973 and charges against "Jane" members are dropped.

"Chicago" (02:49)

Hear the song by Graham Nash.

Credits: The Janes (00:19)

Credits: The Janes

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The Janes

3-Year Streaming Price: $199.95



In the spring of 1972, police raided an apartment on the South Side of Chicago where seven women who were part of a clandestine network were arrested and charged. Using code names, fronts, and safe houses to protect themselves and their work, the accused had built an underground service for women seeking safe, affordable, illegal abortions. They called themselves “Jane.” Directed by Oscar-nominee Tia Lessin (HBO’s Trouble the Water) and Emmy-nominee Emma Pildes (HBO’s Jane Fonda in Five Acts), The Janes offers first-hand accounts from the women at the center of the group, many speaking on the record for the first time. The Janes tells the story of a group of unlikely outlaws. Defying the state legislature that outlawed abortion, the Catholic Church that condemned it, and the Chicago Mob that was profiting from it, the members of Jane risked their personal and professional lives to help women in need. In the pre-Roe v. Wade era––a time when abortion was a crime in most states and even circulating information about abortion was a felony in Illinois––the Janes provided low-cost and free abortions to an estimated 11,000 women.

Length: 102 minutes

Item#: BVL283436

Copyright date: ©2022

Closed Captioned

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