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the Job with Jane
(Editor's Note: This article was developed from a 1999 interview
conducted by Becky Kluchin. Jane was the CWLU affiliated underground
abortion group. The picture of Jeanne is from the 1995 video, Jane:
An Abortion Service.
"I was really adrift, but I wanted to do something, and it seemed
to me that if you were going pick something in terms of women and
politics the front lines was abortion because women were dying and
that was real." -Former Jane volunteer Jeanne Galatzer-Levy
What was Jane?
was the abortion counseling service affiliated with the CWLU. Before
abortion was legalized in 1973, Jane members, none of whom were
physicians, performed over 10,000 illegal abortions. Their philosophy
was that women had the right to safe humane abortions and that if
that wasnt possible legally, than it was up to the womens
liberation movement to take up the slack. Jane took its medical
and social responsibilities seriously, so careful training and a
humane relationship with their clientele were an important part
of the Jane experience. Known officially as the Abortion Counseling
Service of Womens Liberation, "Jane" was the name
people would ask for when they first made contact.
Twenty year old Jeanne Galatzer-Levys introduction to the
Abortion Counseling Service came at a meeting in Hyde Park. It was
a rocky start. She had brought a friend named Sheila with her, which
unbeknownst to her, violated Janes security protocol because
Sheila had not been specifically invited. After some pointed discussion,
Sheila was allowed to stay, but the incident illustrated the everyday
stresses of working in a clandestine abortion network.
first meeting was especially tense, because a young woman who had
come to Jane had recently died. She had wanted an abortion but had
such a dangerous infection that she had been urged to check into
a hospital immediately. Jane attempted to follow up her case, but
it took several days to determine that she had died in the hospital.
had been a police investigation. Although the detectives were sympathetic
to Jane and did not think that the Service was responsible for the
womans death, some members had left the group over the incident.
It was a difficult soul searching time for those who remained.
the time Jeanne Galatzer-Levy joined up, Jane members were performing
the actual abortions themselves, based on the techniques they had
learned from Mike, the male abortionist with whom they
had formed an often contradictory, but very close relationship.
remembers her first orientation,
was a very large meeting, there must have been 30-35 people, all
in the living room that was probably the size of my dining room,
you know a big living room, a big old Hyde Park apartment, but
still, a lot of women and were all sitting on the floor
and a few in the chairs in the back that had been pushed to the
wall. Then we were kinda told what the Service was. And you know,
it was pretty straight forward, I think. They pretty much told
us everything except they were doing it themselves.
told us they werent using doctors anymore, and the history
of that. My friend Sheila who was so much more perceptive than
me, figured out immediately that they were doing it themselves
and who it was that was doing it. Sheilas very sharp. But
I was completely oblivious. And we joined.
And that was how we started. And I was pairedwe got big
sisters and what we did then was, at the end of a meeting
they actually brought out the cards and passed them around and
people took cards, but not us, we didnt take cards. Then
I met with Benita in her apartment a couple of times and just
went through what we were gonna do and what not, and then she
set up a counseling session and I actually sat in on it.
cards that Jeanne Galatzer-Levy is referring to were the index cards
Jane used to assign abortion clients to the Jane volunteers. Cards
were passed around at meetings. People tended to want the easy
cases and the difficult cards usually ended up being
dealt last. Short term abortions were usually easier cases, so volunteers
would start out on them. Long term abortions were more complicated
and so demanded more counseling experience.
cards would go around, and everyone would grab you know, the one
who lived in Hyde Park and was twenty years old and was three
weeks since the last period, because , it was obviously gonna
be better. And then there would be the woman in Long Grove who
it had taken two months for her to find us, and she would go around
and finally someone would say, weve gotta get rid of this
woman, and someone would volunteer and take it, and I think some
people learned long term counseling by saying Ive never
done one but Ill do it if you help me.
always tried to do follow up after an abortion was performed, but
the results varied considerably:
mean some people you really got to know and you really had these
wonderful relationships with, and some people you just felt there
were these huge walls around them and there were walls around
you. You just touched at this one point and you helped them and
you know that was it, and you knew that you were never gonna see
them again. That the one thing in the world they wanted to do
was to forget that this had ever happened.
to Galatzer, the people who had short term abortions were most likely
to disappear as the procedure was less prone to complications. With
long term abortions, follow-up was a necessity:
long terms, you induced an abortion, you induced a miscarriage.
You had to follow up. It was very important to find out what happened
because what we did originally, there was a period when we had
Leunbach paste and all these other things, but originally what
we did was we broke the bag of water, and they pushed out a much
of the amniotic fluid as they could, and the fetus would die,
and then they would go into a miscarriage. But things can go wrong
One, you compromise the integrity of the uterus, so theres
a real possibility of infection, which there is with any natural
miscarriage too. You couldve missed and the baby could live,
it could still live, and then youd have to do it again.
The body might not go into a miscarriage, and then thered
be dead matter in the uterus mostly it worked very well,
but there were a lot of things that could go wrong, and so it
was very important to find out, to follow them, to find out whether
theyd gone into a miscarriage, and then find out what happened.
Once they were in a miscarriage they were urged to go to the hospital
or emergency room and then say they were in a miscarriage and
deny having done anything. If they did it on their own, which
some people did, they needed to have a follow up D and C, to do
that because you cant leave anything hanging around in there,
nothing. So you did have to really follow them. It was a very
different kind of thing. And you had to, it was kinda hard because
you really had to establish that relationship. You couldnt
let them slide because you couldnt pretend that it wasnt
happening the way you could let somebody get away with that who
was eight weeks pregnant and it was gonna be something theyd
deal with a lot later. It was a different situation.
volunteers usually started out working at the "Front"
which is what Jane called the apartment they used as a reception
area. The abortions were performed at another apartment called,
"The Place". Women were encouraged to bring along people
for emotional support, so the "Fronts" became a gathering
place where men, women and children could all be found.
volunteers who worked the "Front", kept everything on
schedule, gave out information and reassurance, inventoried supplies
and served food and drinks. One Jane volunteer remembers that food
was one of the few things that Jane ever really splurged on. Drivers
would take a few women at a time from the "Front" to the
"Place" and then back again when the abortions were done.
Galatzer-Levy describes starting out at the "Front":
was expected to work the Front, and it was a really long day,
and it was hard. People would come and their significant others
of some sort or another, their sisters or aunts or cousins or
boyfriends or whatever would come, and we were very woman centered.
We had all this food at the Front. We always had all this food
and tea and soda and things like that. And we gave outwe
started them on a dose of tetracycline. And gave them a box of
pills that included ergotrate and tetracycline. They took these
afterwards, to contract the uterus and help them get back into
would talk to people. Theyd be nervous and then the people
who were going for the abortions would be driven off and their
significant cousins, brothers, sisters, children whatever would
then be sitting there. And so you would have to kinda entertain
them. And you know, I was a fairly shy person and it was hard,
you know its kinda hard to be conducive to strangers in
this very peculiar circumstance. I was very young, and you were
giving a kind of tea party all day long, and you really were kinda
out of the loop, you really didnt know exactly what was
going on. So first you did that. And I did that for a while. And
then there was the driver and I moved very quickly into driving
because I was one of the few people who had a drivers license.
Lots of people didnt have their license. Well U of C at
the time was full of New Yorkers and New Yorkers dont drive,
like I was one of the people who helped teach Sheila how to drive.
abortion became legal in New York, women with more money could hop
on a plane and have the procedure done legally, so Janes clientele
became poorer. Jeanne Galatzer-Levy was treasurer at that point
and describes Janes finances,
population became much poorer and we charged, at that point one
hundred dollars and we took anythingwe literally took nothing.
We asked that they give us something. But often they didnt,
you know. We were averaging about fifty bucks. I was by then the
treasurer and we were averaging about fifty bucks which we figured
we could do, we had figured out that whatever we charged we ended
up with about half that per.
think earlier on, when we were using Mike we had to
actually have the money and then hed give us a few free
ones. People have wonderful stories about getting peoples
coin jars. I never got that as a driver, but I did get a lot of
singles. And I, the driver would pick people up, drive around
a little bit then go off onto a side street, park the car and
ask for the money. People would hand me the money and I would
take it, and then I would shove it into my pocket. I never counted
it. And I dont think anybody every counted it.
you know, I didnt know what people handed me and I didnt
care. And sometimes they would say when they handed me, I dont
have all this, and I would say it doesnt matter. So we did
have some really broke women, and for some of them, I mean theyd
been lied to by their boyfriends, theyd been lied to by
everybody and they had never really asserted themselves in any
way, shape or form, and this was their decision not to be in this
position, not to have a baby, not to get stuck again. And they
were really flying. They would be really excited you know? We
were real sunny and happy, so you know, they allowed themselves
May 3, 1972 Jeanne Galatzer was working the "Front", caring
for three children that had been left by one of the women who was
getting her abortion at the "Place". What Jeanne didnt
know was that the police were already raiding the South Shore apartment
that was serving as the "Place". Ruth Surgal had just
dropped off some snacks at the "Front" and when Galatzer
heard a knock on the door, she assumed Ruth had forgotten something.
It wasnt Surgal, but a large beefy Chicago detective. Jane
was being busted at both locations.
The Abortion 7 Bust
"We were terrified.
We were looking at like one hundred ten years, one to ten each count.
It was very impressive." -Jeanne Galatzer-Levy
Jeanne recalls what happened when she heard the knock at the door:
was at the Front which was an apartment in Hyde Park. It was a
nice apartment. It was a ground floor, and it had this long, long
hallway, and we were way at the back of this building. Ruth had
been over, dropping off food or something, and there were a bunch
of people there, and I had been talking to them. It turns out
that I had a long, very sincere talk with the woman who had turned
us in, which really pissed me off later. I didnt know, I
mean of course I didnt know. But she was having ambivalent
feelings about it, so I was really very helpful. Later I wanted
to kill her I was so pissed off.
opened the door and there were the tallest men I had ever seen
in my life, in these suits, and you knew immediately what this
was. I dont know if I said anything or if they said anything.
think they announced they were the police, and I turned around
and walked in front of them and said, "These are the police.
You dont have to tell them anything." And they were
really irritated. That was how they decided to arrest me, because
Id opened the door, and you know, it was perfectly obvious
to me Im a control freak you know, and I think I took
charge the way people do.
were really tall! Really weird. I developed this whole theory.
I love crackpot theories, I intend to be a crackpot when I grow
up. My theory is that you had to be really tall to be a homicide
cop. These were homicide cops, because abortion was a homicide.
And they were homicide cops who hated being there. You know its
not easy to make homicide detective. You really have to be good.
Its not even political like taking the sergeants exam. You
really have to do something, and they do it because they want
to. And by and large what do is they track down people who kill
other people. And they think of themselves as good guys and they
hated being there. This was not their kind of crime. So they were
very ambivalent about it. They were very funny. So we were taken,
I was taken, the whole group of us were taken down to the station.
I wasnt handcuffed, I dont think. I was treated very
nicely, except that I was in a state of perfect terror.
took everybody. We were dealing with a very poor population, so
if a woman was on her second pregnancy and she had a two year
old, she had nobody to leave that two year old with. We would
beg people, if youre gonna bring your two year old bring
your sister to watch the two year old. But we had children running
around, aunts, cousins, uncles, friends, a random bunch of people.
were men at the Front and they took them too. I dont think
there were a lot of men, but there were a couple. You know I think
they were teenagers, very young men. And they tried to sort us
all out, and then they interviewed each of us. They asked us questions,
and we saidyou know we were really middle class savvy people,
and we all said, "I dont have to answer that."
And basically, at the end of the day I think that they picked
who they arrested on the basis of the ones who said, I dont
have to answer that. You know, because everybody else was talking.
Actually some of the women just wouldnt say anything. But
when we hired Joanne, the attorney who defended us and she got
the paperwork, she said, "Youre the best clients I
ever had, people talk to the police all the time and you guys
didnt, I love you." We knew we didnt have to
talk to the police and we didnt.
asked us,"How much do you charge?" We said, "Well
how much do they say we charged?". And they would go crazy
because theyd ask the women,"Well what did you pay?"
And somebodyd say twenty bucks and somebodyd say one
hundred bucks, and it didnt make any sense at all. There
was usually this huge wad of cash in illegal abortion busts and
the women would come in and say," I paid five hundred dollars."
When we got busted, there was a wad of cash, but it was all singles,
and these women were saying, "Oh I paid ten dollars."
were very self-aware I think, and there were all kinds of class
and race things going on with the police. They felt more like
us then like the women they were supposedly protecting from us,
and they kinda wanted that relationship. So that was bizarre,
was in the middle of her period, and she needed a tampon, shed
been asking everybody and was getting nowhere, and a woman policemen
walked by and Martha just spontaneously jumped out and called
to her. Perps cant act like that. It was really scary because
it made us realize, you know, who were the arrested. What was
a very natural act for her, was really inappropriate in that situation.
It was very scary.
werent questioned at the 11th and State lockup, we were
questioned at wherever the hell it is, the local. And then we
were put in paddy wagons, which are really unpleasant, and driven
to 11th and State, and the drive in the paddy wagon was a riot.
It was all women and of course everybody else who was arrested
was a hooker, because thats all they arrested women for
then. And one woman was just giving hilarious stories, regaling
us with stories of the street. It was really quite funny. And
then we were in the womens lock up at 11th and State.
were a big group. People said to me afterwards, "Werent
you scared?" But once we were together as a group I wasnt
scared again. But it was very unpleasant, a very unpleasant experience.
You just, dont have choices. Its very strange; its
just not the way life is. Very unpleasant. But we were together,
and we were a group, and we figured something would happen. One
of the women who was arrested, had a husband who was a lawyer.
And he had managed to communicate to her. People were calling
for us. Wed each made a phone call I guess. We knew that
things were happening, and that they were going to pay the bail,
and then there was the question of whether they could get us out
that night or whether wed have to wait until the morning.
into the evening, they put us into double cells, but we were in
a row so we could talk to each other. I was put into a cell with
Judy who was nursing at the time and they managed to get her out
because she was nursing. She really wanted to get out, she really
did. Her son really needed her to get out and her husband really
needed her to get out too. If she we got her out on her own recognizance,
that would lower the bail on all of us.
they got her out on her own recognizance that night, at night
court, so then I spent the actual night alone. But it was next
door to other people. It was very unpleasant. In the morning,
they gave us bologna sandwiches, which I couldnt eat, and
coffee. It was awful, but that was breakfast at Cook County Jail.
Then they loaded us again and we went to, 25th and California,
and we went into the womens lockup there, I guess it couldve
have gotten much worse because women now are much more commonly
arrested for all sorts of wonderful things. But at the time, many,
many fewer women were arrested . The mens lockup was horrible
at 25th and California, Im told, but the womens lock
up was pretty small and we were a pretty large group. Then we
were called in front of the judge who was very nasty, but who
let us out on bail to the arms of our waiting whatevers.
called my mom and told her that my name was going to be in the
paper, and she hadnt seen it. I dont think it had
occurred to her to scroll down and look for my name. And she was
very upset. She wanted me to promise that,"Id never
do anything like that again, and it was very nice but, I understand
that you believe in this but youll never do this again will
you?. You have to be careful," and all the things that mothers
now appreciate that more than I did then. She was very frightened,
and she didnt like it, and we had a conversation about that.
But I wasnt living at home and that was that. And honestly
my closest friends were in Jane, so the question of how I dealt
with it was really in the context of those people, not in any
After the Bust
the "Abortion 7" as they came to be called, were charged
with eleven counts of abortion and conspiracy to commit abortion.
According to Galatzer, the remaining members of the Service who
had not been arrested distanced themselves from the Abortion 7.
Galatzer herself is unsure why this happened.
to Laura Kaplan, who wrote The Story of Jane, part of
the reason was the fear that since the police would be watching
the "Abortion 7" people, their continued association could
endanger the work of the Service. Some members wanted to shut down
the Service, but the leadership insisted on continuing. There were
desperate women out there and they needed abortions. Whatever the
reasons, Jeanne Galatzer-Levy found the distancing painful and upsetting.
were terrified. We were looking at like one hundred ten years,
one to ten each count. It was very impressive. We were terrified
and we all quit the Service, in fact the group withdrew from us
and reconstituted and did their own thing. It was like they really
didnt want to be contaminated, which was also very, very
upsetting for us. Though luckily for me, my friends were in the
group who got arrested.
became a group, and the first thing we had to do, was meet together
and try to deal with the fact that we were in big trouble. We
really tried to talk to each other, and that was difficult. We
were a very disparate group. You could not have done a better
job of getting us swiped across the demographics. You really coldt
have. We went from Abby whos really, extraordinarily bourgeois.
She and her husband were living out in Downers Grove which is
an affluent suburb of Chicago and she was a New York intellectual
political person who had sought us out as a political thing and
was really very, aorta old left kinda thing, but very bourgeois.
then there was me at the other endand Diane, Diane and I
were both dropouts so that was the demographics. It went from
one end to the other. Sheila was gonna start her senior year.
Martha and then Madeline were housewives with children,-young
children. Judy had just had her first child, she had been a high
school teacher. I think she had just retired, or taken a year
who was very involved with NOW, and very involved with much more
mainstream kinds of things, had also been very involved in La
Leche League. Martha and Madeline had both been involved in La
Leche League early on because theyd nursed. They nursed
when nobody did, you know, a million years ago. I dont think
we were endorsed by La Leche League, but you know, theyre
great people. And in some ways, we had trouble becoming a group,
and in some ways we never did. But we did have a common interest,
and the first thing we did was we interview lawyers, and that
was really fun. I mean, everything we did was fun, we just had
a good time because, were just who we are.
go downtown wed all get gussied up, and it really was a
matter of gussiying up because frankly we all looked like that
scene from The Snapper. Its an Irish movie, one of
the rowdy "down home on the soil " movies. The teenage
daughter becomes pregnant, so its this whole thing of who
did it to his daughter you know. Shes the oldest child of
this large family. In the end, she has the baby and they all go
to see her and the whole family dresses up right, meaning the
father puts on a suit and the mother puts on a kind of a nice
dress, and the little girl puts on her baton twirling outfit because
thats the nicest thing shes got and the little boys
got a superman shirt And I thought thats exactly the way
my family always gets dressed up. I loved it because it looked
like my family.
when we went to interview the lawyers, we looked the same way...wed
all get gussied up. But except for Abby, we were clueless as to
how to do that. We didnt have those kinds of clothes anyways,
except for Abby of course. So wed get all gussied up and
wed go down and wed interview somebody. It was a very
high profile case, and defense lawyers really like big high profile
cases because they get their names in the newspaper and any publicitys
good publicity, believe me.
lawyers as a group, and I say this knowing one of my closest friends
is a defense lawyer and is actually very, very good, are a slimy
bunch. Theress a lot of money in it, and you deal
with some pretty sicky people, and some of these people are really
pretty creepy. So wed meet people who were really creepy.
guy, I cant remember his name, a very big guy at the time,
had this office, this huge room with a huge desk in the corner
of his office, and it was gleaming mahogany desk with, and you
know hes got this couch area. The first thing out of his
mouth was, "You know you could be in trouble with the taxes".
Because you know it was clear we earned money. But this had not
occurred to us at all, you know, boy that was the last thing we
were worried about. We said,"Not him. No way."
wed interview various people then wed all go out to
lunch. And that was all I was doing at the time. And it was pretty
much all Sheila was doing at the time. She was trying to finish
school, which she did, stretching though that summer. And she
wasnt sure what she was gonna do or, it was very up in the
air. Some of us had things that dont go away like, Marthas
kids, they didnt disappear for the event. So shed
get up every morning and take care of the kids while all this
was going on.
we interviewed people and we ended up with Joanne who was a gasp.
She was just a gasp. She really had this sorta hard as nails persona,
and she was just a riot. She had been an elephant girl in the
circus. She was great. Shed run off and joined the circus
you know, a really interesting person. And she really wanted the
case, because she was a woman and she thought a woman should handle
the case, and we always thought that too. There were a lot fewer
women lawyers then, it was a lot bigger deal. And we liked her.
She was the only one who really spoke to us politically.
actually, we did talk to a law classics guy, who, I think Northwesterns
legal department. He was very political. And he scared the shit
out of us because he was much more interested in the political
aspect of it than what happened to us. And the last thing any
of us wanted to do was to spend any more time in jail ever, and
be martyrs. And we did run into people who had weird ideas about
what we could mean to them. That were very strange. We just all
quickly agreed that we had no interest in that. We had no interest
in it being a political statement, we just wanted it to go away.
What we were doing was a political statement, but going to jail
was not one we wanted and it wouldnt help anybody.
most of the first three or four months nobody in the Seven went
back to work for the Service. And then Diane came in to a meeting
and said, Im going back to work
this is really
what I want to do, I really care about it, I was just on the verge
of being trained and I really wanna do that, and Im going
back. And then Martha went back and I went back, and then
Madeline went back. Abby did not, and hated it that we did. Sheila
didnt because she wanted to get on with her life, she was
going back to school and thinking about what she wanted to do.
I dont think Judy went back to work, and I dont remember
did I make that choice? Well its very interesting. I was
twenty-one when we got arrested, and quite frankly it had never
occurred to me that we could get arrested. And probably, it had
never occurred to me that choices had consequences, that actions
have consequences. Theres nothing like a night in Cook Country
Jail to make you realize that actions have consequences. It was
an enormous growth experience for me. In a way I was really sorta
shaken out of my little cocoon of being a kid. I really realized
that what I did made a difference,and could have real consequences
and I had to really think through this decision. When I talked
through why I was doing this, I wanted to be doing it still. Which
made me feel real good about having done it in the first place,
and I decided well if this is what I want do then I should do
it. Its sorta a civil disobedience argument.
level of seriousness changed enormously. I was blithe about it,
clearly I thought it was important, and I wanted to do it, and
I was really having a lot of fun doing it, it was really rewarding.
But afterwards I realized that I had made a very serious choice
and if I was going to do this, I could get into really serious
trouble. And I was gonna do it anyway.
The End of Jane
the Abortion 7s lawyer, pursued a strategy of delay. She knew
the Supreme Court was going to rule on the Roe vrs. Wade case, a
major abortion test case. If the Court ruled in favor of abortion
rights, then it would be easier to get the defendants off, or at
least cut a better deal.
Galatzer-Levy explains how it all ended:
we had hired Joanne, basically what she said was,"All were
going to do now, from now on, is delay this until the Roe v Wade
decision comes down because nobody wants to prosecute you knowing
that this is happening. They dont wanna waste the money,
so theyre gonna allow us to wait." So we just dittled
around. We had periodic court appearances, in which again wed
get all gussied up and wed go down and have lunch after
the court thing. And we just were waiting, and we knew it was
of us had gone back to work, some of us hadnt and we were
just waiting. Then the decision came down and I dont remember
where I was standing when I heard this decided, I just remember
that we all called each other and people called me. We got together
and you know we were thrilled of course, we were real excited
and happy, and you know, it was like everything else, you know
you get into the court system and everything up, the arrest is
so dramatic and exciting, horrifying and all those things, and
then everything past that is so boring, and slow and very different
kind of time frame and very different emotional thing. Its
very surreal. And disconnected in a way that the arrest is so
immediate. So basically she said well all go in and well
see, and Ill talk to the prosecutor and see what theyll
do. Obviously theyre not gonna prosecute you at this point,
but there are issues involved. So she went in and they cut a deal.
They dismissed everything, and they didnt hit us with practicing
medicine without a license which they couldve, in exchange
for us not asking for our instruments back. We said okay sure.
Abortion Counseling Service sort of ground to a halt. I think
we did two more weeks. Then we had a party and it was all over.
leaving the Abortion Counseling Service, Jeanne Galatzer-Levy joined
the Chicago Womens Graphics Collective and helped produce
the large colorful feminist posters the group was famous for. In
1974, she married Robert Levy and over the years raised 4 sons and
1 daughter, which she describes as,"...the first, best and
most important thing I will ever do."
her children were older, she returned to school and finished an
MS degree in biochemistry(1994) and a second BA in journalism(1999).
She now works as a freelance science writer. Her work has appeared
in the Chicago Tribune and she has just begun a project for
the International Medical News Group.