Ask for Jane
A humble low-budget movie by a first-time director reminds us of how life before Roe v. Wade was. Ask for Jane tells the story of Jane Collective, a Chicago-based abortion service that worked in the shadows from 1969 to 1973 to provide women with a safe abortion before Roe made her work redundant.
I know a lot about the collective and although the film necessarily had to simplify parts of the story and create composite characters of the true women who led Jane, I can verify that the film is very close to the facts. Cait Cortelyou, who commissioned the script from director Rachel Carey, produced the movie and starred. It convincingly demonstrates how a University of Chicago student, who had a supportive friend and a caring personality, slowly developed into a “women’s occupation” whose sense of responsibility towards other women forced her to risk everything to them to help in a life-threatening crisis. The central character of the film is loosely based on activist and Jane founder Heather Booth, who is the subject of Lilly Rivlin’s documentary Heather Booth: Changing the World.
The film is somewhat awkward in some places, and despite all the elaborate details of time and place, the absence of the checkerboard hat band, which is part of Chicago’s police uniform, was disturbing. But the attitudes and behaviors of all actors in this film, both men and women, are absolutely clear, neither overdone nor sensational. Ask for Jane tells an important part of women’s history and pays tribute to the courageous women who opposed the bloodbath caused by alleged offenses and self-inflicted abortions because they believed that women’s lives mattered.