The Abortion Counseling Service of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (1968-1973) is usually called JANE, and all of us who worked in that pre-Roe underground group are also called Janes.

Though Bob Dylan may seem an unlikely ally, his line "... to live outside the law, you must be honest ...." always reminds me of the underground abortion work done by JANE. It makes me think about what law is, and what honesty is. It makes me think about the difference between law and justice.

JANE – and Janes – appear often in my writing, teaching, and performance. Being a Jane has been big education, and I’m grateful; it's so valuable I want to pass it on.  I've done a tiny, pocket-size chapbook drawn directly from JANE work - SHE SAID,  and a book of poems as well; What if your mother is deeply informed by Jane-consciousness.

More recently, several of my stories about JANE, Janes, and tattoos (!) have been published in journals: read two, here and here; another one's available as a zine; and another was published by Minerva Rising as a chapbook (it won their first prose chapbook prize). A story called "Hello. This is Jane," came out in September of 2015 (read it in the Turkish online magazine THE HUMAN); another one's in The Literary Nest, Spring 2016, and yet another is in the seriously funky/seriously serious zine Chasing the Night #3/Fall 2016.  There's also a three minute video trailer about the stories.  So, hey, maybe sometime there'll be a book with all the stories in it.  We'll see.   

Portland's STREET ROOTS published an interview we did in the summer of 2013. You can read it on their website - and read Joanne Zuhl's excellent editorial about reproductive justice in that same issue.   And check out another interview on this podcast: The Abortion Diary (conversation was pretty wide-ranging, including my own abortion, and Melissa Madera did a great editing job).  A recent good use of interviews and research is by journalist Rachel Wilson. 

Here's a short essay I wrote about abortion in early 2012; and here are some blogs done for the WORDS OF CHOICE website (one about abortion access & poetry, one about a startlingly clear, well-made movie): see 2-3-08 and 3-31-08.

We want better reasons for having children than not knowing how to prevent them.
— Dora Russell

We all know popular culture is both a cause and an effect of our thinking and behavior. From the middle of the 20th century until quite recently, only a handful of good fiction films that focus thoughtfully and intelligently on abortion as a primary theme were shown in the USA: The Cider House RulesCitizen RuthVera Drake + from the UK, If These Walls Could Talk I, and Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days - from Romania. Then, in 2014, we got the smart, funny Obvious Child, and in 2015, Lily Tomlin's Grandma played all over the USA while Dangerous Remedy popped up on YouTube (that one's Australian, based on the life of Dr Bertram Wainer, whose work was central to changes in that country's abortion law.  Australians showed it on national tv.  These movies help to balance the often well-made and well-acted - though perverse and unrealistic - 21st century US films about pregnancy.  There are some other movies that give serious attention to the complexity of motherhood decisions, if only briefly - I've made a list; take a look.

And it goes without saying – though you’ll notice I’m saying it – that you should read, too. You could start with these three valuable books (luckily, there are lots more); they’re available in libraries and bookstores, and online.

Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty
  — Dorothy Roberts
Doctors of Conscience: The Struggle to Provide Abortion Before and After Roe v. Wade
  — Carole Joffe
The Abortionist: A Woman Against the Law
  — Rickie Solinger

Additional JANE Resources

  • “The Greatest Abortion Story Ever Told,” article (probably with byline “Jane”) in Hyde Park Voicesca. 1970
  • “Abortion: A Decade of Debate,” op-ed by Judith Arcana in the Chicago Sun-Times, January 23, 1983
  • Chicago Women’s Liberation Union,
  • The Story of Jane, book by Laura Kaplan, various editions
  • Jane: An Abortion Service, 1995, 57 minute video documentary by Nell Lundy and Kate Kirtz
    available on dvd at Women Make Movies
  • Jane: Abortion and the Underground, play by Paula Kamen, 1999, at
  • Words of Choice, theater created by Cindy Cooper, at
  • Jane: Documents from Chicago’s clandestine abortion service, 1968-1973;
    various authors in a zine first published by Firestarter Press in 2004;
    the 2011 edition is by Eberhardt Press/Radix Media
  • What if your mother, book (poems and monologues) by Judith Arcana, Chicory Blue Press 2005
  • Keesha and Joanie and JANE, fiction zine by Judith Arcana, Eberhardt Press 2013
  • Soon To Be A Major Motion Picture, fiction chapbook by Judith Arcana, Minerva Rising Press 2015
  • “Abortion Is A Motherhood Issue” (revised), essay by Judith Arcana in Women’s Lives: Multicultural Perspectives (4th edition);  McGraw-Hill, 2006; ed. by Gwyn Kirk and Margo Okazawa-Rey [early version in Mother Journeys, ed. Reddy, Roth and Sheldon]
  • Listen to an hour-long show about the abortion service, done by the CircleARadio collective on KBOO,
    Portland's independent community radio station.

Also see, by search engine, library research etc:

  • Pauline Bart’s early research on Jane (mid-70’s) – sociological study
  • Fiona Lawrence’s senior thesis, done at Bard College (early 90’s)