See Jane Decide: The Feminist Abortion Service Contemplates an Evolution

Briah Fischer

Abstract


This case study explores the evolution of the Abortion Counseling Service of Women's Liberation, better known simply as “Jane,” which flourished in Chicago between 1968 and 1973. Jane began by referring women in need to practitioners performing illegal abortions, usually at exorbitant fees. Gradually, the women of Jane began taking on a greater portion of the work—which increased the safety and decreased the cost of the procedure for their clients—with the goal of being a service run for women, by women. With the expansion came increasingly complex group dynamics that ultimately forced the women to contemplate their position in the larger women's liberation movement. This study utilizes landmark court decisions, a documentary, journal articles, books and a newspaper series for the investigation of abortion as a component of the women's liberation movement. Additionally, this case demonstrates the complexity of Jane's role in the liberation movement by exploring the following question: Did the end goal of providing women with the safest, least expensive, illegal abortions justify a shift away from the feminist ideal of a collective organizational structure towards a hierarchical, power-driven organizational structure?

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