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The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service

4.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226424217
ISBN-10: 0226424219
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From 1969 until January 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, a pioneering group of Chicago feminists who called themselves "Jane" provided illegal access to abortions for thousands of women. Kaplan, who is now a lay midwife, joined Jane in 1971 as a counselor. Here she 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. Initially Jane was a referral agency only, but as demand grew, members became involved in counseling and attended clients' abortions, and some eventually trained to perform the abortions. Jane volunteers were convinced that women were entitled to control over their bodies, and they acted on their principles, despite the consequences. Several members were arrested in 1972, but the suit was dropped. Jane disbanded after abortion clinics became legal. A dramatic and important piece of women's history.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

From 1969 until the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling in 1973, a group of Chicago women formed a loose underground organization whose sole purpose was to aid women who needed abortions (then illegal, of course) in getting them as safely and inexpensively as possible. They called their referral service "Jane" and worked out a set of complicated procedures to keep both themselves and their clients out of jail. At first they handled referrals to willing doctors on a very limited basis-only three or four a week-but as word about Jane got around their business increased. Eventually the women were taught by an expert to do the abortions themselves, which enabled them to charge next to nothing to those in financial need. But the operations were not all they did; every one of the 11,000 women who came to Jane also received health education and counseling. As a study of this remarkable but little known phenomenon, this book will be of value to anyone interested in women's health, the women's movement, and women's reproductive health and rights, particularly now that those rights are coming under increasing attack.
Audrey Eaglen, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, Ohio
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 334 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (June 9, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226424219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226424217
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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This book takes a historical (even if partly rose colored) look back at the days before Roe vs Wade, and a group of women with a commitment to women's self determination
Although it is still a radical idea in our day (which accounts for the stalking of patients, bombing of Clinics and the killing of medical personel)these women realized that control over one's reproductive system was essential for survival. Women who found themselves pregnant had very limited options (there were no laws against firing pregnant workers or dismissing students and child support payments were very lax in enforcement by modern standards)and Jane sought to change that system. The change is even more remarkable in light of the fact that many of these women were college students like myself.
Because this book is so well written, you can almost feel the excitement and terror as many collective members were changing the system. Understandably, the use of pseudonyms was a necesitity both then and now.
Even though we know that abortion was legalized in Roe the mood is so well set in the book, "Never Again" rings throughout the pages. Although Jane members do not regret what they did, it is obvious that they do not want another generation to resort to such extra-legal methods. One generation was once too many.
In addition to individual reading and research, this book might be useful for a course on American women's history and/or a general course in the 1960's-1970s.
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There was a lot I didn't know about the early years of the legalization of abortion, and this book really taught me a lot. I had no idea that there had been feminist collectives to do this kind of thing, or that much like with the current feminist movement, the women involved were from such diverse backgrounds. In this era of the erosion of the right to choice, this is an important book both to show us how it was and to help inspire a new wave of action.
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"The Story of Jane" by Laura Kaplan. An account of what it will be like if the pro life zealots ever manage to outlaw abortion again. No doubt, what is currently going on in states where the right wing has been almost legislated it out of existence by those determined to impose their religious beliefs upon the rest of us. That's all the belief 'Life begins at Conception' as well as the erroneous term 'baby's' comes from. You would have thought the Prohibition era where alcohol was banned by the same moralistic crowd would have taught these zealots something, but apparently it didn't. Where crime ran rampant in this country and was swimming in illegal alcohol. It did nothing to stop people from drinking. In most cases, it encouraged people to drink. Morality cannot be legislated into existence with useless laws. Laws that only aid crime to run rampant and wind up being paid for by the taxpayer who is left to foot the bill for moral ideologues ignorance. People will always take matters into their own hands and will do what is illegal if they want the service bad enough.
Admittedly these ladies were a bit more sophisticated, audacious and ingenious than I always imagined the average abortionist being, but, I was raised in the 50's where sexual information was a dirty word. I got married not having a clue about sex. I always saw abortionist's in a different light, one that was propagated by moralist's bent on painting the worst picture imaginable. So reading this book was an eye opening experience. From all of my research into the subject, they were not the only ones indulging in illegal abortion. It was common for Doctor's at the time to do such things too. There was a whole network of doctor's across this country doing the exact same thing. Dr.
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What these women did when they saw a need is one of the most astounding stories of courage and brilliance I've come across. The care they took, the lengths they went to, how they evolved—stunning. Jane, a core groups of about 25 - 30 women, existed for just four years, and in that time it's estimated that Jane changed for the better the lives of over 11,000 women while at the same time literally saving their lives—from the hands of butchers in a time with abortion was illegal—and how they actually turned this terrifying decision women face into a positive experience.

The Story of Jane is one of the most inspiring books I've read. It's women's history and cultural history. It shows what women went through at the hands of butchers—who sometimes demanded sex along with payment from frightened, desperate women—and what they experienced at the loving, safe, caring hands of Jane. And doctors—withholding information, Godlike, righteous—becoming demystified by the collective intelligence and fearlessness of Jane. And education, what the women learned as they came through the service, how they took responsibility for their own empowering decision, all thanks to Jane. And how the service affected members of Jane in their daily lives is something that every woman should experience.

In today's cultural climate, frighteningly, when women's rights are being chipped away at in almost every state in this country, this book is more important than ever. If you want to see what it was like for women when they had no control over their own bodies, and what it may be like again, very soon, if we don't stand up for our rights and fight back, read this book.

Let's do it for Jane.
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