‘The Janes’ Documentary On HBO Is Terrifyingly Timely

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The Janes, a documentary currently running on HBO, recounts the tale of a group of unexpected rebels — women. 

In a pre-Roe v. Wade world, from 1969-1973, a network of seven women in Chicago ran an underground abortion service that rendered low-cost or free safe pregnancy terminations. It’s estimated that they helped about 11,000 women. 

They called themselves “Jane” or The Jane Collective but were officially known as the Abortion Counseling Service of Women’s Liberation.  

The organization began when Heather Booth helped her friend’s sister obtain a safe abortion in 1965. Other women seeking terminations began contacting Booth after learning via word-of-mouth that she could help them. When the task became more than Booth could handle, she reached out to other activists in the women’s liberation movement. 

From there, The Janes were born — a group collective seeking to deal with the rising number of unsafe abortions being performed by untrained providers. Because illegal abortions were not only unsafe but expensive, the founding members sought to provide women with safer and more affordable access.

Inception Of The Janes

The documentary gives firsthand accounts from the brave women who started up and operated the group, many of whom are talking on record for the first time. 

It’s a terrifying yet timely look at life before abortion was legal and the lengths to which women had to go to get one, given that we’re on the cusp of returning to that time if Roe v Wade is overturned

“In the spring of 1972, police raided an apartment on the South Side of Chicago where seven women who were part of a clandestine network were arrested and charged,” says HBO

“Using code names, fronts, and safe houses to protect themselves and their work, the accused had built an underground service for women seeking safe, affordable, illegal abortions. They called themselves ‘Jane.’”

The Janes is directed by Oscar-nominee Tia Lessin (HBO’s Trouble the Water) and Emmy-nominee Emma Pildes (HBO’s Jane Fonda in Five Acts). 

“Defying the state legislature that outlawed abortion, the Catholic Church that condemned it, and the Chicago Mob that was profiting from it, the members of Jane risked their personal and professional lives to help women in need.”

In 1972, abortion was a crime in most states, and even distributing information about it was a felony in Illinois. What The Janes did endangered their lives in order to help women in need. 

The Janes premieres on June 8 at 9 p.m. on HBO.


Will you be watching ‘The Janes’ when it premieres? Tell us in the comments.

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