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Jane: Abortion and the Underground an excerpt from the play selected by author Paula Kamen

(Editors note: The complete script is available from Paula at PaulaK2289@aol.com.)

From Jane: Abortion and the Underground


(In the present, an interview with/oral history of a woman whose friend used "The Service" -- tracked down by playwright in 1992 with an ad in the Defender.)

CRYSTAL: I was a sophomore in high school and I attended Rezin-Orr High School on the West Side. R-E-Z-I-N. Orr. It was located on Augusta and Keeler. It's on Pulaski and Chicago Avenue now. One of my high school chums came to me and told me that she was pregnant .

And she said she had to get an abortion. It wasn't like thinking that maybe she should put it up for adoption or what have you. She said that she had to get an abortion. And I was a virgin, you know, so I was just supportive. So I said, OK, I would support her. What happened was she did all the contacting. I don't know how she found the organization, but she came to school one day and said, "I found someone to give me an abortion - and I have an appointment set up."

So, I think that we even took public transportation to this house. And we went to this apartment and there was a couple, a white couple and (with some confusion) ...I believe it was the South Side....

Well, they started to describe what the procedure would be like, but I'm sure the first thing they did was find out how pregnant she was, what her age was, trying to determine, you know, if she was a good candidate. And so I think we asked how much or something and they said there's no set fee, but whatever you have. She had $15. I remember that. And so she gave them the money, or however the arrangement, I don't know. (nods head) But I know she had $15.

But we started crying at some point while she was talking to us because we were so young. We asked if I would be able to go with her, and that's when they told us that they had a place that I could go to while the procedure was taking place.

Well, I remember her, you know, saying that in terms of when it happened, that it was painful. You know, that she cried and that whole thing because she went through that alone. I don't know if she ever told (her parents), but I know it was very traumatic, and it stayed with me. I don't know how this woman could forget.


DR. C: $1,000 a piece. That's it.

JODY: No way.

DR. C: Don't worry, honey. Women will pay it.

JODY: We deal with a lot of poor women.

DR. C: It don't matter. Listen to me. No matter how poor they are, they find a way to get the money. Suddenly, poof, out of thin air, there it is. It ain't-It isn't an issue.

(YVONNE gives JODY a look of urgency.)

JODY: (reading her mind) But we charge according to sliding scales.

DR. C: What? A sliding scale? For an abortion?

JODY: That's why we're able to bring you so much business. We're from the- they call it "the women's movement." An entirely different set up.

DR. C: What? I don't get it. Why are we even talking?-

JODY: That's a part of our system. That's why we're doing this.

DR. C: OK, then. I get it. I'll give you a cut.

JODY: Then how about considering the cut in the base price. We need it much lower.

DR. C: (incredulous) A sliding scale? You want a sliding scale. For, for this? Listen, if you want a discount, go to the Marshall Field's white sale. FYI, I'm a... What in the hell do you think this is, a charity? The fucking United Way? I have never heard of - Why am I even?- ? I don't negotiate, ever. And don't even thinking about asking again if you can come into the room with me. And the blindfolds stick.

JODY: Don't worry. We know about your rules. But, when you're making your price, remember that we're saving you hassles. You just keep in contact with me. I screen the women. I collect the money for you. I'm like your girl Friday.

DR. C: But I already got my nurse and driver.

JODY: But they don't send all that sweet business your way. How about $500 each?

DR. C: No one has ever-no one negotiates with me. I don't have time for, for conversation.

JODY: That's how we work.

DR. C: What about how I work?

(JODY stays silent.)

How about for every ten you send me at $1,000, I'll do one for $500.

JODY: Hold on, ten is a lot. If we send you ten, we want all of them done for $1,200. Total. I guarantee you. It's still a sweetheart of a deal.

DR. C: What?

(DR. C retreats and scene resumes.)

HEATHER: (counting cash and ignoring the others) $500. A bargain, yes. But we only have $500 in our loan fund. That will hardly cover one.

YVONNE (pseudonym): And all these poor girls pouring in-.What do we tell them?

JODY: Well, we can't just let them in for free.

YVONNE: But some of them can't afford anything.

HEATHER: I agree. But it's a big decision, and we have to make them pay something, no matter how small.

(PATIENT ONE, a poor teenager, and YVONNE, a counselor, walk to the front of the stage from different sides, upstage from JODY. They share spotlight.)

PATIENT ONE: I don't have any money.

YVONNE: "Do you have a record player?

PATIENT ONE: How will I listen to my records then?"

YVONNE: Well, you might consider selling your records, too, because you can always get more records. This is a decision that you won't be able to reconsider.

(On letting "The Service" use her apartment for abortions)

MICKI: We had plenty of room. It was a big apartment. And so they could perform the procedure in one room. People could rest in another room until it was time to go back. And, you know, it was like it was perfect, and then we could be in the dining room or the kitchen or the backout of the way.-And, yeah, I remember thinking, "Well, I could go to jail for that," but I had done a lot of things that I could have gone to jail for. I mean you could get arrested and go to jail for demonstrating against the war. And I did those things because I believe that what I was doing was right and necessary.

I was going to do what I could to promote that so that there would be no more back-street stuff.

And there was part of me that was interested,I mean, you know I wanted to be.in on the action, and you know, to make sure my actions and beliefs aligned. Because it's pretty safe just to be a front house. It's another thing all together to actually have abortions taking place on your premises, you know, in your apartment.And I knew every time we had it there, and it was only like twice a month, every other week, that it was in our house, that I could, you know, that any day the door could, the bell could ring, and it was the cops busting us. But when they called, I never said no. Never said no.

You have to understand. People were getting killed. You didn't trust anybody or anything. You knew people who had been in the Black Panther party who had been killed. You knew people in SDS or any number of other organizations that had just been offed or killed or just disappeared. I remember Chuck Canavan was on his way home from the Conspiracy Trial thing one time, and he crashed his car. He fell asleep in his Volkswagen at the wheel, and he died. Life was just tragic most of the time. It was like what do you have to lose? You didn't expect to live that long. I didn't expect to live past age 33.


JUDITH ARCANA: You know, we are brought up to believe that what is unusual and frightening is to take responsibility for human life. For your own and the lives of the other people you care for. So, that's what it's really about. It's not about some super macho and Wonder Woman kind of shit. It's about understanding that it's what we're supposed to be doing. That this is the way we're supposed to live. We're supposed help each other give birth. We're supposed to help each other abort if it becomes necessary. We're supposed to help each other die. We're supposed to help each other live. We're supposed to do this. And we're supposed to have the knowledge and the strength to do this. And that's what I learned in the Service.

“We are women whose ultimate goal is the liberation of women in society. One important way we are working toward that goal is by helping any woman who wants an abortion to get one as safely and cheaply as possible under existing conditions.”
-- Jane pamphlet, 1969-1973

Woman symbol


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