The power of underground abortion as the overthrow of Roe v. Wade Profiles: NPR


Activist Heather Booth and the Jane Collective, an underground abortion service, offered abortions to thousands of women before Roe vs. Wade. Here she speaks in 2015 at the memorial service for civil rights leader Julian Bond.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP


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The power of underground abortion as the overthrow of Roe v. Wade Profiles: NPR

Activist Heather Booth and the Jane Collective, an underground abortion service, offered abortions to thousands of women before Roe vs. Wade. Here she speaks in 2015 at the memorial service for civil rights leader Julian Bond.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

What Sunny Chapman experienced some 53 years ago in a secret Chicago apartment while blindfolded illustrates what life was like for women seeking abortions before Roe vs. Wadethe historic judgment of 1973 guaranteeing the right to procedure.

It was 1969 and Chapman needed an abortion. The then 19-year-old activist worked for the Chicago seedan underground newspaper, when she spotted an ad that read “Pregnant? Need help? Call Jane”.

Jane was actually the Jane Collective, a group of activists who banded together in the 1960s to provide abortions to thousands of women at a time when the procedure was still banned.

“It’s a pretty painful procedure, and on a bed in an apartment, and, you know, they did a great job, but that’s not how it should be,” Chapman told NPR by phone. . “Women should be able to openly go into medical clinics and walk into a room after their procedure and be covered with a blanket and have a nice hot cup of tea. And, you know, it shouldn’t be this crazy thing. I mean, can you imagine if you were a young woman doing something like that? Would you have the courage of a 19-year-old woman?”

The power of underground abortion as the overthrow of Roe v. Wade Profiles: NPR

Sunny Chapman was one of thousands of women who sought out the Jane Collective for an abortion in the 1960s and 1970s.

Sunny Chapman


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Sunny Chapman

The power of underground abortion as the overthrow of Roe v. Wade Profiles: NPR

Sunny Chapman was one of thousands of women who sought out the Jane Collective for an abortion in the 1960s and 1970s.

Sunny Chapman

Chapman fears questions like this will soon consume countless women as Americans wait to see if the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion is overturned. deer holds – it was published by Politico on Monday evening and was confirmed by Chief Justice John Roberts as genuine on Tuesday.

If the Supreme Court overturned Deer. c. Wadea series of “trigger laws” would go into effect and automatically ban or reduce abortion in 13 states: Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

⁠In the probability that Roe vs. Wade is overthrown, Heather Booth, founder of the Jane Collective, has two pieces of advice: “We need to come together. We have to organize ourselves.

“My reaction is that the fight continues,” Booth told NPR by phone Tuesday when asked about her reaction to the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion. “Let every tool we have, from protests to support those in need, who are looking for a full life, and determines the most intimate decision in a person’s life about when or whether to have a child. or the number of children to have, this decision must be maintained, which includes service and support for those in need, including the restoration of this underground of which I was a part beforedeer years.”

A Brief Look at Clandestine Abortion Past and Present

Booth was a student at the University of Chicago when a friend approached her in 1965 for help with having an abortion, wrote Rainey Horwitz in her research paper “The Jane Collective (1969-1973)”.

After helping her friend find a doctor willing to take the risk of performing the procedure, Booth was inundated with requests from other women in need of help.

In the late 1960s, “the Jane Collective provided health care, counseling, and abortion services to thousands of women in Chicago” with the help of volunteers, Horwitz wrote.

At its height, the Jane Collective performed abortions four days a week and normally served 10 women a day. In the seven years the group has been active, it has performed approximately 11,000 first- and second-trimester abortions.

As the Jane Collective grew, so did the number of attentions brought by law enforcement.

“In the spring of 1972, the police raided an apartment on the south side of Chicago,” the Sundance Film Festival says on its website promoting the new Jane Collective documentary titled The Janes. “Seven women have been arrested and charged.

About six months after the women’s arrest, on January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion in the United States with their decision in Roe vs. Wade. The charges against the women were dropped.

Today, clandestine abortion “is a kind of rough, lumpy umbrella” encompassing many groups that try to provide women with access to procedures and pills used for voluntary abortions, said journalist Jessica Bruder, who recently wrote a Atlantic cover story on clandestine abortion, NPR told in April.

The power of underground abortion as the overthrow of Roe v. Wade Profiles: NPR

Heather Booth, founder of the Jane Collective, in 2009.

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The power of underground abortion as the overthrow of Roe v. Wade Profiles: NPR

Heather Booth, founder of the Jane Collective, in 2009.

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

The groups range from activists in Mexico who have helped women get misoprostol, which is taken for stomach ulcers and can also cause abortions when used correctly, and Aid Access, “which is a telemedicine service which provides the pills to women in all 50 states, regardless of whether a state has banned them,” Bruder said.

Then there is the Abortion on Demand group.

“They recently armored two vans. So they’re based in Minnesota, but they’re planning to use these vans just outside the Texas border to make it easier for people to get to clinics who would typically have to travel maybe away from Texas.” Bruder added. “So one of the vans will provide, basically, there will be a doctor who can provide manual vacuum abortions in that van. He will have a table and an ultrasound and all that. And the other van will have someone who can prescribe and administer abortion pills.”

What the future holds

Horwitz was not surprised to see the Supreme Court’s draft opinion on Monday evening.

Growing up in St. Louis, where she is a medical student, Horwitz said the state lived in a “post-deer“world for a while.

There are very few options for women seeking in-person abortion procedures in Missouri, Horwitz told NPR by phone Tuesday.

“It’s so interesting, because, I mean, it’s really history repeating itself. The Jane Collective really filled a niche that wasn’t being tapped by the medical field, similar to what’s happening And I think the really exemplified Jane Collective is that abortions aren’t medically complex procedures, especially now in 2022 when so many people may have the option of having a medical abortion and need to completely eliminate the risks of these surgical abortions,” said Horwitz, who also runs the popular Instagram account sexplained.med.

These pills, which are “very safe,” have helped reduce the need for underground groups, Carole Joffe, a sociologist and professor at the University of California, San Francisco who studies abortion, told NPR on Tuesday by phone.

Abortion pills — not surgery — accounted for 54% of abortions in 2020 and were the top choice in the United States for the first time since the Food and Drug Administration approved the abortion drug mifepristone more than two decades ago. .

The Supreme Court should formally rule on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that involves a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks, before his term expires in late June or early July. The decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization could reverse or significantly weaken Roe v. Wade.

NPR’s Sarah McCammon and Terry Gross contributed to this report.


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