Tuesday, March 28, 2006

History you hope you'll never need...

My current lunch time reading is a book called The Story of Jane : The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service by Laura Kaplan.

I'm still early in the book but so far I'm finding it completely fascinating. It's the story of the creation and inner workings of Jane during the period just prior to Roe but more than that it's an interesting portrait of the women who got involved with the project. I'm not as familiar with this period of history as I should and would like to be but I guess the thing that surprises me the most is that they seem to have operated much more openly than I would have thought. They distributed brochures with information on the group and their phone number, announced their existence and purpose at meetings, took referrals from doctors in the city, and even helped the wives, daughters, and girlfriends of police officers.

Obviously the climate was much more tolerant of abortion as a necessary, if unfortunately illegal, part of life than it is now. I can scarcely imagine, if the time comes when they are necessary again, that such services will be able to operate with the same level of openness. Although the group's members did take precautions to protect workers and women alike, and the book is written using pseudonyms to protect identities, on the whole it appears that they operated with a surprising level of audacity for people technically breaking the law. [Though two of the women made the excellent point that they weren't going to stand by and be "good Germans" while others were suffering.]

I sincerely hope that we never have to use the knowledge that they aquired through their years of running Jane, but I also wonder what difference the technology we have today will make if it becomes necessary to organize illegal abortions again. Will e-mail and cell phones make a new Jane easier?

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