The Jane Collective and Abortion Access in 2020


Last month the Reproductive Health Access Project attended a screening of the film “Ask For Jane,” hosted by students from Barnard’s Introduction to Women and Health class. The film tells the story of the Jane Collective, a group of women who started out facilitating safe, but illegal abortion referrals in the late 1960s in Chicago and later, before abortion was legalized nationwide, ended up performing abortions for women who could not afford to go to New York for legal abortions.

Dr. Jiana Menendez, a family physician member of our New York Reproductive Health Access Network, and Silpa Srinivasulu, RHAP’s Research and Evaluation Manager, led an interesting discussion about abortion access today and busted myths about abortion being a scary, unsafe, and traumatic procedure.

A key takeaway was acknowledging that while we technically live in a country where everyone has the right to abortion care, in reality, people in many parts of the country are grappling with the same lack of access to abortion care as the women in the “Ask for Jane” film.  We discussed how people are now accessing safe abortion outside the medical system in places where abortion has been regulated and legislated out of existence. Fortunately, in 2020, safer options, like medication abortion, exist for people who are accessing care through underground referral networks similar to those in the Jane Collective.  Instead of calling a landline, folks can use the internet to get information.

January 22nd is the 47th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.  We all should reflect on the progress we’ve made and what we have left to achieve. 

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