The power of clandestine abortion as Roe v. Wade is coming: NPR

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

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Activist Heather Booth and the Jane Collective, an underground abortion service, provided thousands of women with abortions before Roe vs. Wade. Here, he speaks in 2015 during 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 exemplifies what life was like for women seeking an abortion before. Roe vs. Wadethe historical sentence of 1973 that guarantees the right to the procedure.

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

Jane was actually the Jane Collective, a group of activists who came together in the 1960s to provide thousands of women with abortions 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 go into medical clinics openly and walk into a room after their procedure and wrap themselves up in a blanket and have a nice, hot cup of tea. And, you know, it shouldn’t be this crazy. I mean, do you Imagine if you were a young woman doing something like that? Would you have the courage of a 19-year-old woman?

Sunny Chapman was one of thousands of women who came to the Jane Collective for abortions in the 1960s and 1970s.

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Sunny Chapman was one of thousands of women who came to the Jane Collective for abortions in the 1960s and 1970s.

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Chapman fears questions like this will soon consume countless women as Americans wait to see if the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion overturns Roe contends: It was published by Politico on Monday night and confirmed by Chief Justice John Roberts as authentic on Tuesday.

If the Supreme Court overruled Roe. against 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 overturned, Heather Booth, the founder of the Jane Collective, has two pieces of advice: “We need to come together. We need to organize.”

“My reaction is that the fight continues,” Booth told NPR by phone Tuesday when asked about his reaction to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion. “That every tool we have, from protests to supporting people who are in need, who are seeking a full life and determining the most intimate decision in a person’s life about when or if to have a child or how many children to have , this decision must be sustained, for what it includes the service and support to people in need, including the reestablishment of that clandestinity of which I was part in the pre-Roe years.”

A brief look at the abortion underground then and now

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

After helping her friend find a doctor willing to risk the procedure, Booth was inundated with requests from other women who needed 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.

In its heyday, the Jane Collective performed abortions four days a week and typically saw 10 women a day. In the seven years the group was active, it performed around 11,000 first- and second-trimester abortions.

As the Jane Collective grew, so did the number of eyes of law enforcement.

“In the spring of 1972, police raided an apartment on the South Side of Chicago,” states the Sundance Film Festival on its website in promoting a new documentary about the Jane Collective called the janes. “Seven women were arrested and charged.”

Approximately six months after the women were arrested, on January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion in the United States with its decision in Roe vs. Wade. Charges against the women were dropped.

Today, the abortion underground “is a kind of rough and lumpy umbrella” encompassing numerous groups trying to get women access to the procedures and pills used for self-induced abortions, said journalist Jessica Bruder, who recently wrote a Atlantic cover story on clandestine abortion, told to NPR in April.

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

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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 obtain misoprostol, which is taken for stomach ulcers and can also induce abortions when used correctly, and Aid Access, “which is a telemedicine service that 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 shielded two vans. So they are based in Minnesota, but they plan to use these vans just outside the Texas border to make it easier for people to get to clinics who would normally have to travel far from Texas.” Bruder added. “So one of the vans will provide, basically, there will be a doctor who can do manual vacuum aspiration abortions in that van. You’ll have a table and an ultrasound and all of 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 Monday night.

Having grown up in St. Louis, where he is a medical student, Horwitz said the state has lived in a “post-Roeworld for some time.

There are very limited 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 addressed by the medical field, similar to what’s happening today. And I think what the Collective Jane really exemplified is that abortions are not medically complex procedures, especially now in 2022, when so many people may have the option of having a medical abortion and have to completely eliminate the risks of those surgical abortions,” said Horwitz, who He also runs the popular sex-ed sexplained.med Instagram account.

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

Abortion pills, not surgical procedures, accounted for 54% of abortions in 2020 and were the top choice in the US for the first time since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the abortion drug mifepristone more than two decades ago.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule officially on Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case involving a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks, before his term ends in late June or early July. The decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization could overturn or greatly weaken Roe vs. Wade.

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

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