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


An extraordinary history by one of its members, this is the first account of Jane's evolution, the conflicts within the group, and the impact its work had both on the women it helped and the members themselves. This book stands as a compelling testament to a woman's most essential freedom--control over her own body--and to the power of women helping women.

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.
… (more)
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)
LibraryThing member magonistarevolt
I love how so many of the pitfalls of the birth control debate are confronted head-on with really great political analysis: how it rubs elbows with eugenicists and population control assholes, the inability for white women to get birth control contrasted with the forced sterilization of women of color, the inaccessibility of the civil rights vision of feminism, etc. etc.… (more)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

342 p.; 8.4 inches


022662532X / 9780226625324

Local notes

Page: 0.2161 seconds