Ask for Jane – just like grandma did

Advocates for Women invite you to watch Ask for Jane and then join a discussion about the Jane Collective, an organization which helped women get abortions from 1968 to 1973 when abortion was illegal in most of the United States. In the 1960’s many unsafe abortions were being performed by untrained providers. Abortion services were both dangerous and very expensive. The film is a fictionalized story based on the real underground organization that helped connect pregnant women with safe and more affordable abortion providers. 

Discussion: Sunday, December 12 at 4 pm on Zoom

The Jane Collective begins

The Abortion Counseling Service of Women’s Liberation, commonly called the Jane Collective, began after 1965 when Heather Booth helped a friend obtain a safe abortion. Other women heard through word of mouth, and they contacted her for help. After a while there was too much work for her to do alone and she sought help from others in the women’s liberation movement. 

If men can do it, women can too

Nearly all doctors were men at the time, so the Jane Collective sent women to male doctors. A crisis arose when they learned that one of the doctors did not have proper medical credentials. Some members left the group over this, while others realized that if this man learned how to perform safe abortions without proper medical training, some of their women members could learn also. A few women did learn how to perform surgical dilation and curettage (D & C) abortions, which was the most common method. Members of the group performed 11,000 abortions, primarily for low-income women who could not afford to travel to places where abortion was legal. None of their clients died as a result of the abortion. 


Seven members of the Jane Collective were arrested in a 1972 raid on one of the Jane Collective apartments. Each member was charged with 11 counts of abortion and conspiracy to commit abortion. They faced a maximum penalty of 110 years in prison. Their attorneys were able to delay the trial until after the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. Fortunately, that ruling caused the charges to be dropped, as well as ushering in a half century of personal freedom for women to choose whether they want to be pregnant. 

Will the dark days of danger return?

Now American women are waiting for the Supreme Court to decide whether the justices will subjugate women to state legislators and the government with regard to personal decisions about women’s own health and reproductive choices. Soon young women and teens might be seeking out a 21st Century Jane Collective, just like their grandmothers might have done 50 years ago.