January 27th, 2010
Tonight you have a chance to see a great piece of political theatre
Jane: Abortion and the Underground 8 pm at the King's Theatrical
Society Lecture Hall, on the second floor of the New Academic
Building, 6350 Coburg Road. The play was produced earlier this month
to large, enthusiastic crowds, so if you missed it the first time,
this is your chance to see it, for free! Jane is adapted by Ruth
Vollick from Paula Kamen's play and directed by Pascale
Roger-McKeever. The producer, Jane Gavin-Hebert, is bringing the play
back as part of Trust Women: A Conference on Reproductive Justice.
Gavin-Hebert organized the play and the conference "to inspire
understanding of women's political struggle for reproductive rights."
I was able to see the play the first time around, and I wanted to
share some background and my thoughts on the play.
Jane, officially known as the Abortion Counselling Service of the
Chicago Women's Liberation Union, was a woman-run service that
arranged abortions in secret apartments throughout Chicago between
1969 and 1973. The women running the service wanted to decrease the
cost but increase the availability and safety of the then-illegal
procedure for otherwise desperate women. Heather Booth, an activist
who went on to become a leader in the Democratic National Convention,
was an early Jane organizer. "It wasn't that we were for abortion"
Booth told The Chicago Tribune in 1999, "We were for women having the
right (to) make this most personal decision." After helping many
women, and surviving police raids, Jane disbanded after the Roe vs.
Wade ruling legalized abortion in 1973.
Jane: Abortion and the Underground conveys women's experiences of
abortion and the Jane service. A cross-section of society is
presented in the play. Some women were poor, others suburban
housewives, or political radicals. Some of the actors are planted in
the audience; one will suddenly stand up and begin her monologue.
This technique breaks down the barriers between actor and audience,
making the character's problems more immediate, and powerful. This
technique symbolically conveys the message that abortion is not
something that can be separated from other aspects of life, and as
much as we sometimes pretend it only affects 'other' women, women
from all walks of life have had experiences with abortion. Jane:
Abortion and the Underground is an excellent example of what can
happen when art meets activism. The play is part of the Trust Women
Conference. The conference's three keynote speakers, Loretta Ross,
Jessica Yee, and Joyce Arthur, will be giving a free lecture 7 p.m
this Thursday at The McNally Theatre. Film maker Catherine Martin and
spoken word artist El Jones will open the lecture, and it will close
with a screening and discussion of the documentary film The Choice
Monologues. Jane, and the Trust Women conference, reminds us of how
much more choice and control women now have over their bodies, but we
could lose our rights at any moment, unless we fight for them.