The hosts discuss what life was like before Roe vs. Wade came into law and have a conversation with the directors of the HBO Max documentary “The Janes,” Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes. In the pre-Roe v. Wade era, female activists calling themselves ‘Janes’ built an underground network for women with unwanted pregnancies and provide low-cost and free illegal abortions to an estimated 11,000 women. The Lady Liberty is V.E.R.Y. Pissed! hosts also chat with Connecticut State Representative Maria Horn about what life will look like post-Roe and what some states, including Connecticut, are doing to become safe havens for abortion access.
All episodes begin and end with the 2017 single “Rise” by rock group Betty (www.hellobetty.com)
When abortion is illegal, it doesn’t mean that women don’t get abortions. It just means they don’t get safe abortions.Tia Lessin (07:56)
In this episode:
The hosts share what they’re pissed about (01:50)
Sherry Henry introduces our first guests, Emma and Tia (06:15)
A history of The Janes (08:00)
How the Janes solved the problem in front of them (24:54)
Betty Spence introduces our second guest, Maria Horn (33:00)
The possibility of a federal abortion ban (45:00)
The Hosts Start by Sharing What They’re Pissed About
Carol Jenkins is pissed by the blatant war against women coming down from the highest level. The midterms are the battlefield, and we need to fight back.
Gloria Feldt is pissed at all of the naysayers who didn’t think that Roe v. Wade would actually be overturned, especially when the writing was on the wall.
Betty Spence is pissed that the Supreme Court justices promised that they wouldn’t overturn Roe v. Wade when they at their confirmations. Even though they swore to uphold precedent, they clearly had no intention to.
Sherrye Henry is pissed that by the end of 2022, half of the United States will make abortion illegal in some form.
Emma Pildes and Tia Lessin from “The Janes”
The documentary film focuses on “ordinary” women in Chicago who organized a network of safe abortion providers. They filled a void that the government and health care system at the time (and now again today) wasn’t willing to provide.
Tia discusses some options that women had in those times. Those with means could pay many thousands of dollars to a doctor to perform an abortion in their office. Other women turned to nefarious characters who ran any number of underground services. In Chicago, the Mafia controlled a lot of the underground abortions. Other women would attempt to self-induce abortions, which was incredibly dangerous.
The problem was so bad in Chicago that the Cook County hospital had an entire ward dedicated to care for women who suffered complications from botched abortions.
An Underground Network of Providers
Emma talks about the referral system that the Janes created and how they organized and vetted the doctors who provided the care. The Janes also saw the disparity among who could access these services. Even though abortions were illegal, wealthier women — usually white — had more access.
In order to provide services to women who couldn’t afford the procedure, the Janes worked with one specific, well-respected doctor. They promised him a large volume of clients in exchange for a lower rate, and eventually the Janes learned how to perform the procedure themselves. With the care and precautions the Janes set up, there were actually lower rates of complications and infection than one would expect compared to a clinic setting.
They continued until prominent members of the Janes were eventually raided by the police and arrested seven Janes, the patients, and all of the visitors. The charges were dismissed when the Roe v. Wade decision came down from the Supreme Court about six months later in 1973.
Passing the Baton
While the Janes focused on helping one woman at a time (11,000 times), they also knew they needed to bear witness to what they did. The hosts talk about how Jane Fonda has said she used to think activism was a sprint, but now she realizes that it is a relay race.
Maria Horn, Connecticut Assemblywoman
Betty discusses how the governor of Connecticut issued the historic Reproductive Freedom Defense Act, which protects those traveling to the state in order to seek abortion care. Maria is a huge supporter of this bill and discusses its history and what it means for those who live or come to Connecticut for reproductive health care.
- Prevents extradition from Connecticut to face criminal charges in another state
- Reimburses the $10,000 and legal fees that may be charged under laws like Texas’ S.B. 8.
This bill was brought about as a direct answer to S.B. 8 in Texas, which passed in late 2021. That law states that citizens can file a complaint against anyone they suspect of aiding and abetting abortion care and receive a bounty in return.
However, since there will be an increase in people coming to Connecticut specifically for these services, it’s important to legislators like Maria Horn that the health care system in Connecticut can actually support all of that need. Thus, the law expands the scope of medical professionals who can perform certain kinds of abortions.
Carol asks how difficult it was to get the bill passed in Connecticut. Maria explains it was a bipartisan bill which gained support from both parties, including one Republican who is going on to run for Lieutenant Governor.
Passive support no longer passes muster here. We need active fight here.Maria Horn, (40:28)
Sherrye asks if women could be prosecuted in their state if they receive medication pills through the mail that were prescribed in Connecticut. While it depends on the laws in various states, Maria says that the state of Connecticut will work to protect those women from legal action.
This law could provide a model for other states, and Gloria asks if there is cross-state cooperation with Connecticut and other states to get the law put on their books. Maria discusses that other states should copy the law in Connecticut, since it was put into action quite quickly and is comprehensive. Other states could easily enact a similar law to protect their citizens.
Of course, all of this won’t matter if Congress passes a federal ban on abortion. And since Republican senators have said that they will entertain such a ban if they have enough supporters. That’s why it’s so important to vote in the midterms on November 8th to ensure that Democrats don’t lose majority in the House and Senate.
Tia Lessin is an American documentary filmmaker. Lessin has produced and directed documentaries and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary and the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Documentary.
Emma Pildes is an Emmy-nominated producer and filmmaker. As one of Pentimento Productions’ principal producers, Pildes produced “Spielberg,” “Jane Fonda in Five Acts,” and “Very Ralph,” all for HBO Documentary Films. At PBS’ “American Masters,” Pildes helped to produce the Emmy and Peabody-award winning “LennoNYC,” Emmy-award winning “Inventing David Geffen,” as well as “American Masters: Billie Jean King.” “The Janes” is Pilde’s directorial debut.
Maria Horn is an American attorney and politician. A Democrat, she currently represents Connecticut’s 64th assembly district in the Connecticut House of Representatives. The district consists of the entire towns of Canaan, Cornwall, Kent, Norfolk, North Canaan, Sharon, and Salisbury, the southern part of Goshen, and much of the city of Torrington.