Thursday, October 13th, 2022

Queerguru’s Janet Prolman reviews “The Janes” the documentary on women’s reproductive rights that we need right now.


Call this # and ask for Jane:

“The Janes” is the documentary on women’s reproductive rights that we need right now.

It tells the story of the underground network of women in Chicago who risked serious jail time in the early 70’s to help women obtain safe abortions when the procedure was illegal, and even circulating information about it was a felony. They used Jane as a pseudonym and placed ads in underground newspapers and posted flyers around the city telling women who needed help to “Call Jane.”

The film uses a combination of archival footage, present day interviews with members of the group, and some of their personal photos. The result is both immediate and historical, and reminded me of the cinema verité of the underground films and “guerilla video” of the era. 

The filmmakers viscerally portray the horror of teenage women with no better options than to risk death in a back-alley abortion. The Mafia in Chicago charged up to a thousand dollars for a procedure performed brutally by an unqualified person, without regard for sanitation or safety, leaving terrified young women bleeding and alone. Many did not survive. But the tone of the film is never exploitative or grotesque. One of the Janes recounts her memory of saving a young woman who was bleeding out, while still quite young and inexperienced herself, and even laughs as she says, “Plus I was high!”, remembering that she’d been toking on a joint prior to the rescue.

The Janes were social justice warriors, who had faced mobs of bottle-throwing haters while on the streets for Black civil rights. Footage is used of such marches, as well as the horrible brutality of the Chicago Police Department during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. These women had been to war and lived to tell the story. I found myself wanting to know more about each of them, so compelling was their lived experience. Yet the filmmakers resist making this a hagiography, instead stressing that each was an ordinary woman, many of whom had faced these same awful choices themselves and simply had to find a way to help.

Although the film was completed before the Supreme Court dropped its bomb on Roe v. Wade, the makers saw the writing on the wall and hurried to complete it. “The Janes” is essential viewing for anyone who cares about justice, rights, and healthcare, for none of us is free until all of us are free.

PS The Janes can be streamed now on  HBO


Review: Janet Prolman

Janet Prolman was born in Boston, Massachusetts, where her mother nicknamed her “my little queer.” She has also lived in North Carolina and New York. A lover of short stories, theater, music, and performance, she knows the lyrics to almost every song or advertising jingle she’s ever heard. Now on Cape Cod, she enjoys kayaking and frequenting Provincetown.

Posted by queerguru  at  11:15


Genres:  documentary

Follow queerguru

Search This Blog

View queertiques By: