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 was taken during her Jane
memoir is also available in our Memoirs
and Bios section.
"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
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 11,000 illegal abortions.
Their philosophy was that women had the right to safe humane
abortions and that if this wasnt legally possible , 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.
Jeanne Galatzer-Levy joins Jane
Twenty year old Jeannne 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
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
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
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 with that.
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
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
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 shape.
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
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 ever counted
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 to be.
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 recalls what happened when she heard the knock at the
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
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, just 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 lockup 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 say.
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 other context.
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 couldnt 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, sorta 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 Madeleine 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 off.
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 Madeleine 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 gussying 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,
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
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 Madeleine 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 why.
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 diddled 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 coming.
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
leaving the Abortion Counseling Service, Jeanne Galatzer-Levy
joined the Chicago Womens Graphics Collective and helped
produce the large colorful feminist posters the group made famous. 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.