Jane: Abortion and the Underground
an excerpt from the play
(Editors note: The complete script is available from Paula at
From Jane: Abortion and
(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.
FROM ACT ONE: NEGOTIATION WITH THE 'DOCTOR'
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
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
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
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
YVONNE (pseudonym): And all these poor girls pouring in-.What do we
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
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.
FROM ACT TWO:
(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
FROM CONCLUDING SECTION:
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.
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