From 1969 to 1973, a group of young women in Chicago grew tired of watching the women in their lives suffer complications, or even death, from trying to get an abortion. As a result, they started a mission to provide women with safe abortion services, regardless of economic funds or social class, during a time where abortion was illegal throughout the country. Officially known as the Abortion Counselling Service of Women’s Liberation, the coalition was more popularly referred to as the “Jane Collective”, or just merely “Jane”.
Jane’s original objective was to screen abortionists to ensure they were competent and providing women with safe abortion services. The founding members of Jane were students from the University of Chicago, focused on referring women to safe abortionists, and offering them counselling throughout the entire experience. Eventually, the women of Jane became frustrated with second party abortionists and learned to perform these procedures on their own. From then on, Jane became a collective dedicated to providing safe abortion services to women through their own practice.
Jane refused to deny abortion services to any woman. All women were guaranteed service through their practice. The collective charged $100 for service, no more than the cost of the equipment used. But, if any woman could not pay their price, they simply requested that women to pay what they could. Patients heard of Jane’s services through word of mouth from other women, or from an underground feminist newspaper run by Chicago Women’s Liberation Union. Jane attracted women from every different background; race, economic status, or social class never mattered.
The women of Jane never anticipated performing abortion procedures themselves. When they first started, they worked closely with an abortionist known only as “Mike”. He proved to be competent in the practice, and performed safe operations despite having no known medical education. Eventually, the women of Jane realized they could learn how to safely perform the procedures themselves, cutting out any middle men and ensuring women were getting the best quality care. “Mike” continued to teach these women safe procedures and sterilization. From then on, the entire experience, from start to finish, was run by Jane.
Jane ran their entire practice out of two small apartments in Chicago. The first apartment, known as “the base”, was the front of Jane. Women arrived to the first apartment, which was setup to function as a reception area/waiting room. Patients would give a full medical history, pay what they could of the fee, and meet with counsellors who guided them through the entire process. Jane wanted women to be an active party in what was happening to their bodies, and thus made women aware they had a right in what they wanted done. Additionally, Jane aimed to provide a welcoming, judgement free environment.
After counselling, women were taken in groups, by car, to the second apartment in order to ensure the secrecy of the operation. The actual procedure was performed in the sterilized area of the second apartment. Following recovery, women were brought back to the first apartment. Patients were expected to contact Jane again within a week of their procedure to make sure they were physically and mentally healthy still. If a patient failed to contact the organization within this time, Jane would reach out to patients themselves to make sure they were okay. In their four years of practice, the Jane Collective performed over 11,000 abortion procedures without a single patient casualty.
All services provided by Jane were illegal in the United States at the time. But, in four years of operation, they were only raided by the police once. Seven members of the collective were arrested. At the same time, Roe v. Wade had just been passed by the Supreme Court. Following this ruling, the charges against the members of Jane were dropped, and none were ever prosecuted. The collective still decided to close permanently, following the court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, because they realized their goal had been achieved: women could now legally receive, safe medical abortions from licensed physicians.
*Disclaimer: This article is not meant to promote or advocate for any political or social views, merely to educate about the work of the Jane Collective