The Amateur Abortionists

In WOMEN'S ISSUES -- articles only On

Imagine a stay-at-home mom who can do an abortion. Or a college student. Imagine she knows how to administer local anesthesia, has the medicines to induce miscarriage, can dilate a cervix, scrape a uterus. Imagine a group — with no medical training — performing dozens of abortions a week, in secret, at great risk to themselves, their families and the women they serve.

That is the story of Jane, an underground group in Chicago that carried out thousands of abortions between 1969 and 1973, when abortion was illegal. It’s a story of code names and safe houses, a story of women taking control of their lives and teaching other women to do the same.

Abortion providers and the women they serve now fear that such an underground service may again become necessary. Abortion remains legal, but one conservative justice has just joined the Supreme Court and many are concerned that another will follow. This month the president signed a bill to cut funding to Planned Parenthood and other providers. Many states have enacted laws that make obtaining an abortion exceedingly difficult: About 90 percent of counties have no abortion clinics. In many areas, the procedure is nearly as inaccessible as it was in the days of Jane.

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