A group of women in Chicago say they operated a covert abortion network for years in the 1960s and early 1970s, skirting the then-federal ban on abortion by discreetly sending messages to one another about abortion services.
“Pregnant? Don’t want to be? Call Jane,” read a 1969 newspaper advertisement from the “Jane Collective,” The New York Times reported Sunday.
Formerly known as the Abortion Counseling Service of Women’s Liberation, the Jane Collective helped women have abortions before Roe V. Wade made it legal in 1973, according to TheNYT.
Roe v. Wade gave women the permission to abort until the point of viability, noting that viability typically occurs somewhere between 24 and 28 weeks. Viability refers to the point at which an unborn baby can live outside of the womb.
University of Chicago student Heather Booth founded the organization in 1969 after she said she helped a friend’s sister illegally abort.
The group operated its network by posting a phone number to call in newspapers, after which a “callback Jane” would talk to the women seeking abortions and transfer them to a “big Jane” who would organize where and when the abortion would occur. Women were often blindfolded before being taken to the abortion site to ensure they would be unable to disclose any locations to authorities, according to TheNYT.
“There were stories of women using coat hangers, taking lye — stories of women jumping off of buildings to try and damage themselves,” Booth said in Retro Report’s video.
“Did I know it was illegal and did I consider that? Yes, I did,” former group member, Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, said.
“The counselors talked [the doctor] into doing it,” another woman who had gotten an abortion through the group when she was 19 years old recounted in the video.
The organization started as an abortion referral service, but soon transformed into a full-fledged abortion service, according to former member and author Laura Kaplan, who wrote “The Story of Jane” in 1995 detailing the group’s activities.
After the group’s leaders discovered that some of the doctors they were using to perform abortions weren’t actually trained, some of the organization’s women decided to do the abortions themselves.
“None of us had any medical experience. None. Not one person in this group,” Kaplan said in Retro Report’s video.
“You’re going to wind up in jail,” one member’s husband warned, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“I viewed it not as breaking the law but as acting on the Golden Rule,” Booth said, TheNYT reported in April 2017.
Chicago police raided one of the abortion sites in 1972 and arrested seven women on charges of performing abortions. The police repeatedly asked where the doctors were, astounded that “the Jane Seven” had been aborting babies, TheNYT reported.
The women were indicted by a grand jury, but escaped going to trial after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973.
A Guttmacher Institute report found there were over 200,000 searches on Google in May 2017 related to self-induced abortions. (RELATED: Here’s How Many People Are Googling How To Self-Induce Abortions)
Roughly 700,000 women also Google-searched how to self-induce an abortion in 2015, according to research from data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, according to ABC News.
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