What is The Janes about?
In 1972, abortion was still illegal in the United States. That same year, police raided an apartment in Chicago, where they found and arrested seven women who had been working as part of a clandestine network to help other women get access to safe abortions.
Using code names, fronts, and safe houses to protect both themselves and their patients, they called themselves ‘Jane’.
“You could not work as a pregnant woman,” one of the Janes explains in the trailer.
“If you weren’t married, you were out of luck.”
This meant women often went to great lengths to terminate their own pregnancies, causing themselves immeasurable harm.
“Women did awful things, they were literally dying because they were women … so we thought, ‘we can be of use’,” another adds.
“The clients included daughters, wives, mistresses of police, state’s attorney, judges,” reveals a doctor who helped the women perform the terminations.
The women were eventually caught by authorities and charged with 11 counts of conspiracy to commit abortion, with the maximum sentence looking to be 110 years. However, any charges against them were dropped when abortion was legalised the following year with the passing of Roe v Wade.
What is Roe v Wade?
Roe v Wade was a pivotal piece of legislation passed in the United States Supreme Court that legalised abortion across all 50 states.
Coming from an escalated state court case that had a Texan mother of two children launch a legal challenge against the Texas attorney-general, Henry Wade, the Supreme Court’s final decision found that laws forbidding abortion were unconstitutional.
Among a number of reasons, the judges on the Supreme Court conceded that the costs of denying access to abortion were high, including physical injuries during pregnancy, as well as the financial and psychological cost of raising an unwanted child.
The passing of Roe v Wade was a watershed moment for feminist activism, and people like the Janes, who had been fighting hard for years to grant all women access to safe, legal abortions.
What’s happening with Roe v Wade now?
The reason The Janes is so topical is that Roe v Wade is currently under threat.
A recent leaked document from the Supreme Court suggested that the legislation is on the cusp of being overturned.
The drafted document looks to be a decision written by Justice Samuel Alito to overturn Roe, with the support of five judges, which make up a majority on the court.
If it were to be overturned, it’s indicated that 22 states will restrict abortion, and another four are likely to change their laws to ban or restrict abortion as well.
This undoes the work of so many from the movements who fought for abortion rights in the first place, and ironically, creates a renewed need for groups like Jane.
Where can I watch The Janes?
The Janes is an HBO documentary, meaning it will be available on Australia’s corresponding streaming service, BINGE.
It will drop on Thursday, June 9.