Before Roe, there was Jane.
The Jane Collective was an underground abortion provider in Chicago that operated on the South Side from 1969 to 1973. The collective performed an estimated 11,000 abortions before the passing of Roe v. Wade. Almost 50 years later, a new organization, Jane’s Army, has paid homage to the past by creating a time-sensitive goal – protecting the future of abortion after Roe.
“When Roe falls, we are going to have to deal with it, and we want to be prepared and deal with it now,” said Grace Barter, campaign and events organizer with Personal PAC and co-chair of Jane’s Army. “To some, this might be depressing or paralyzing, but it shows how important local work is and that can be a hopeful thing. That’s what Jane’s Army is.”
Jane’s Army is a campaign created by a collaboration of Personal PAC, Men4Choice and Future Voices Council. It will recruit activist volunteers to educate, motivate, and activate pro-choice voters ahead of the 2022 election.
In Illinois, every seat in the House and Senate is up this fall. While Illinois is often seen as a refuge for abortion seekers, Barter said things could change quickly if anti-abortion politicians are elected.
Jane’s Army gives people a way to get involved locally through a platter of options. You can take the pledge to support a #ProChoice2022, do text and phone banking, and in the future, neighborhood canvassing. Barter said the organization wanted to ensure that there were comfortable access points for all who wanted to participate.
At their kickoff event on January 26 via Zoom, Jane’s Army hosted State Representative Kelly Cassidy spoke about the importance of midterms, referencing the 2018 election.
“We passed a lot of amazing things that year with the pent-up momentum we had, we cannot underestimate it,” she said. “Without the success we had in 2018, the Reproductive Health Act would not have happened, period.”
AF Advocacy president Andi Friedman spoke of SB8 in Texas and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Mississippi, both of which are finding success even as Roe v. Wade is challenged.
“The signs are all there,” she said. “When you look at Texas it has been over five months since they basically banned abortion and we have done nothing. The new reality can never become the new normal. We must always see it [abortion] as the human rights violation that it is.”
Heather Booth is the founder of the Jane Collective and a life-long activist. Over half a century later, she is still fighting for abortion rights. Before 1965, she said she never thought about the issue of abortion but soon, it became her entire life.
“When we organized, we have changed the world and if we organize now, we will change the world for the better,” she said.