The powerful story of the women who founded and ran the legendary Chicago reproductive rights organization Abortion Counseling Service, otherwise known as Jane, written by one of its members. A compelling testament to a woman's most essential freedom—control over her own body—and to the power of women helping women. • Also the subject of the acclaimed HBO documentary The Janes.
The Story of Jane recounts the evolution of the Abortion Counseling Service, code name Jane, the underground group of heroic women that provided low-cost abortion services in Chicago in the years before the procedure was legalized. Organized in 1969 and active until the opening of the first legal abortion clinics in 1973, Jane initially counseled women and referred them to abortion providers who set prices and conditions. As Jane grew, so did the group's capacity to protect its clients. Eventually, determined to reclaim women's reproductive power in any way they were able, many members of Jane learned to perform abortions themselves.
An extraordinary history by one of Jane's members, The Story of Jane is an urgent account of the organization's development, the conflicts within the group, and the impact its work had on both the women it helped and the members themselves.
About the Author
Laura Kaplan was a member of Jane and founding member of the Emma Goldman Women's Health Center in Chicago. After moving to rural Wisconsin, she attended home births as a lay-midwife and established a shelter-based program for battered women. When she moved to the East Coast, she worked as an advocate for nursing home residents and was the managed care project director for Citizen Action of New York. She is on the board of the National Women's Health Network and has been involved in a variety of community projects.
“A dramatic and important piece of women’s history.”
“[A] powerful story . . . invaluable to organizers, feminist historians, and anyone concerned about contemporary threats to personal liberty.”
“Remarkable. . . . Kaplan’s engrossing tales of the quiet courage of the women who risked their reputations and freedom to help others may remind many readers of other kinds of outlaws who have resisted tyranny throughout history.”
“This is lively, nuanced history that brings to life the hopes, terrors, and disappointments of a movement committed to giving women control over their own bodies.”
“Kaplan tells all about Jane's inspiring history in this fantastic book.”
“As a study of this remarkable but little-known phenomenon, this book will be of value to anyone interested in women’s health, the women’s movement, and women’s reproductive health and rights, particularly now that those rights are coming under increasing attack.”
“Kaplan, who joined Jane in 1971, has pieced together the histories of the anonymous (here identified only by pseudonyms), average-sounding women who transformed themselves into outlaws.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“The Story of Jane is a piece of women’s history in step with feminist theory demanding that women tell their own stories. It serves to remind people of an important and often overlooked moment in the women’s rights movement.”
“[Kaplan] draws on her personal recollections and interviews with Jane members and clients and the doctors who performed the abortions to provide a well-written, detailed history of this radical group. . . . A dramatic and important piece of women’s history.”
“Weaving together the voices and memories of her former co-workers, Kaplan recounts how the group initially focused on counseling women and helping them find reliable, reasonably priced doctors. . . . Kaplan’s account of this remarkable story recaptures the political idealism of the early ‘70s. . . . 23 years after Roe v. Wade, the issues and memories raised by the books are close and all too relevant.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Fascinating. . . . The Story of Jane succeeds on the steam of Kaplan’s gripping subject and her moving belief in the power of small-scale change.”