What It's Like When Abortion Is Forced to Go Underground — From a Woman Who Lived It
In 1973, the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade made abortion legal on the federal level — and it's been legal, if not conveniently accessible, ever since. But what about the days before Roe was decided and safe, legal abortion care was either inaccessible or criminal in most states? Today, with legislation effectively banning abortion in Alabama and Georgia making headlines and similar proposed legislation gaining traction in other states, it's a question on lots of people's minds.
That's why the release of the film Ask for Jane, in theatres May 17, couldn't feel more timely. The movie offers a glimpse into pre-Roe Chicago and the real-life work of the underground abortion service the Jane Collective. The Jane Collective was a group of women who worked covertly to help thousands of women of all ages and backgrounds safely have abortions from the late 1960s to early 1970s — a time when abortion was not only illegal but also punishable with prison time in Chicago.
Judith Arcana, a writer, activist, teacher, and former member of the Jane Collective, served as a consultant for the film. She stresses that abortion not only existed before Roe v. Wade but also before the Jane Collective, before the United States, and, frankly, for as long as pregnancy has existed.
"Women have been having abortions for hundreds, thousands of years, and abortion has been illegal in many countries going back many years, too," Arcana told POPSUGAR. "Abortion is common, and so is the illegality that causes people to go underground. People are still doing this in parts of the United States."
Arcana is alarmed by the momentum of legislation to obstruct access to — or outright ban — abortion in parts of the country. But through the wisdom of her decades of activism and personal experiences, she isn't all that surprised. She talked to POPSUGAR about her story with the Jane Collective and why movies like Ask for Jane are more important than ever.