The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service

by Laura Kaplan

Paperback, 2019




University of Chicago Press (2019), Edition: First Edition, Enlarged, 342 pages


"In the four years before the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, most women determined to get abortions had to subject themselves to the power of illegal, unregulated abortionists...But a Chicago woman who happened to stumble across a secret organization code-named 'Jane' had an alternative. Laura Kaplan, who joined Jane in 1971, has pieced together the histories of the anonymous (here identified only by pseudonyms), average-sounding women who transformed themselves into outlaws."--Cleveland Plain Dealer "The Story of Jane is a piece of women's history in step with feminist theory demanding that women tell their own stories. It serves to remind people of an important and often overlooked moment in the women's rights movement."--Seattle Weekly "Laura Kaplan's The Story of Jane is the first book to chronicle this controversial sliver of history, and it is a fascinating, if partisan, close-up of the group."--Newsday "[Kaplan] draws on her personal recollections and interviews with Jane members and clients and the doctors who performed the abortions to provide a well-written, detailed history of this radical group."--Publisher's Weekly "Weaving together the voices and memories of her former co-workers, Kaplan recounts how the group initially focused on counseling women and helping them find reliable, reasonably priced doctors....Kaplan's account of this remarkable story recaptures the political idealism of the early '70s...23 years after Roe vs. Wade, the issues and memories raised by the books are close and all too relevant."--K Kaufmann, San Francisco Chronicle "Laura Kaplan's The Story of Jane is the first book to chronicle this controversial sliver of history, and it is a fascinating, if partisan, close-up of the group....The Story of Jane succeeds on the steam of Kaplan's gripping subject and her moving belief in the power of small-scale change."--Cynthia Leive, New York Newsday "During the four years before the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in 1973, the 100 members of Jane helped some 11,000 women end their pregnancies....There is more in this remarkable book that will further raise eyebrows....Kaplan's engrossing tales of the quiet courage of the women who risked their reputations and freedom to help others may remind many readers of other kinds of outlaws who have resisted tyranny throughout history."--Chicago Sun-Times… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member wealhtheowwylfing
A study of the Chicago abortion underground in the 1960s and 70s, written by an actual member of Jane. Jane started in the 60s as a referral service. A loose collection of women referred desperate women to abortionists that had better reputations than most: less likely to require sex or to accidentally kill you. As word about Jane grew and they kept getting calls, the group became more organized. They allowed other women to join them, they split into specialized roles (although everyone rotated), and they continued to expand their services. They narrowed down their referrals to a few doctors in-state, then used doctors in NY (where abortion was partially legalized in 1970) for those who could afford the trip. Through persistent cajoling and bullying, a member of Jane got an apprenticeship with an abortionist, and trained until she was able to do the procedures herself. From then on, abortions through Jane would go something like this: a woman would call "Big Jane," who would take down their information and give it to a counselor. The counselor would call them back and arrange a face-to-face meeting, where the counselor would explain the abortion procedure step by step and ask about medical history. "Call-back-Jane" would then call the woman back with the address of the ever-shifting "Front," where thirty or forty women a day would wait for their abortion. A driver would drive them in groups of 5 to the "Place," where a member of Jane would induce a miscarriage or abortion, talking them through the procedure all the while. Near the end of Jane, as they began to be able to drop their prices and word continued to spread, they got an increasing number of poor women in bad health who had little knowledge about their bodies or how to care for them. At that point, Jane also began providing pap smears and basic gynecological care. After the passage of Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton on January 22, 1973, Jane was shut down.

"In its four-year history Jane members estimate they performed over eleven thousand abortions." During that time, they were only successfully raided once (7 members of Jane were arrested and charged, but charges were dropped after Roe v Wade). Jane was made of ordinary women: housewives, students, drop outs and a few career women. Through hard work and determination, they transformed themselves into those who could provide "service" against an immoral law. This is an incredibly inspiring book.
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LibraryThing member mpho3
Riveting, essential, and a must-read regardless of one's stance on abortion (including, whether one views abortion as a medical, legal, human rights, or religious matter). It might not change minds, but it will definitely inform one's arguments. Also a brilliant examination of women's rights, grassroots organizing, social mores, and a critique of the medical establishment--all in the form of an engrossing and well-written true-life thriller. Not that many people have to the courage to truly stand for their beliefs and genuinely put their lives on the lines for strangers in such dramatic fashion. Kaplan's account is non-assuming, but these women's actions were heroic.… (more)


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Physical description

342 p.; 8.4 inches


022662532X / 9780226625324

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