Culture / Film

Timely documentary ‘The Janes’ explores Chicago in the days before Roe v. Wade was set into law

the janes documentary

In a timely release, a new documentary is set to explore the days of secret, illegal abortions before Roe v. Wade was set into law in the United States. The Janes, a documentary directed by Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes and featured at the Sundance Film Festival, features women involved in an underground network, presenting a snapshot echoing through time and forces the audience to consider a larger picture, with current day front of mind.

Who were the Janes?

A year prior to the Supreme Court delivering their decision on Roe v. Wade, the Chicago Police Department raided an apartment of seven women illicitly performing abortions, collectively known as the Janes. Operating in secret to avoid detection, the clandestine work of the underground group is at the crux of the documentary.

What is the plot of The Janes documentary?

The Janes revisits Chicago in the late 1960s and 1970s, as the anti-war movement permeated politics. Here, we are introduced to a group of women who seek to create a means of affordable and safe abortions for those seeking to have one, this during a time where the procedure was inordinately dangerous that septic abortion wards were “full everyday,” as recalled by Dr Allan Weiland.

The women interviewed in the documentary would find themselves in court, before Roe eliminated the problem leading them to think the ordeal was over and they had won. However, as recent weeks have shown, the law is as vulnerable as ever to being repealed and setting child-bearers back into dangerous circumstances. The documentary also looks into class and racial disparities, noting the Janes themselves were predominantly white, middle class women guided by the idea of trying to “save women’s lives.”

Despite focusing on the machinations of the underground operations and their eventual arrest, one cannot help but consider when watching The Janes of the leaked Supreme Court draft ruling expected to undo the protections afforded under Roe.

Where can you watch The Janes Documentary in Australia?

The Janes will be available to stream in Australia from June 9 on Foxtel and Binge.

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