Columbia College Chicago’s Film Row Cinema and the Chicago Women’s History Center showcased the premiere of Ask For Jane on Saturday, September 28, in honor of International Safe Abortion Day. Writer/director Rachel Carey’s 2018 film, based on a true story, takes place in Chicago in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s when abortion is illegal in most states. A group of college girls forms a covert organization, Jane Collective, for women to receive abortions in a safe and discreet manner.
The panel following the film was moderated by Dr. Erin McCarthy, Associate Professor of History and Oral History at Columbia College Chicago. Panelists included Martha Scott; former member of the Abortion Counseling Service (Originally Jane Collective); Dr. Elena Gutierrez; Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Latin American and Latino Studies at UIC; and Megan Jeyifo; Executive Director of the Chicago Abortion Fund and reproductive justice advocate.
“The movie is not my experience at all,” Scott started off by saying, explaining how she became a dedicated member of the project later on. “We didn’t see ourselves as heroines, we saw ourselves as people with something to do that was important. “ Another thing she deemed accurate was that birth control was incredibly challenging to get at that time. She did say that, whether or not the film is accurate is irrelevant, “What’s relevant is that this issue is coming back to us.” Scott was a 28-year-old stay-at-home mom of four small children all under the age of five at the time of her affiliation. Scott said, ”You don’t have to be the most courageous in the world. You just have to work with a group of people who you think are going to do good stuff.”
Dr. Elena Gutierrez mentioned that while the film was diverse, women of color seemed to be victimized instead of being a part of the solution. It was later explained by Scott that black women became involved with the organization later on. An audience member asked about a conspiracy theory of population control in the black and brown populations. Dr. Gutierrez said she didn’t see it as a conspiracy theory and brought up the documentary No Mas Bebes (No More Babies). The film is about the deceitful sterilization of immigrant Latinas.
“Roe [Vs Wade] was a promise for some people, but not all people,” Megan Jeyifo said, because not everyone had the resources – which became a vicious cycle for decades. Examples include not being able to afford transportation, not being able to get off from work, or no access to childcare. But since 1985, the Abortion Fund has been putting forth the effort to help as many women as possible to get what they need. Jeyifo also stated, “But there’s so much work ahead of us.”
Since abortion has become legal, 2017 was the year with the lowest abortion rates. Some of the reasons could attribute to the self-managed abortion pill. This may be a convenient way to have an abortion. But it only works up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. Other women may not have access to abortions. In six states there is only one clinic each. So, this may be a contribution as well.
But Jeyifo left us with this lingering thought, ”If the government isn’t going to support us, then it’s our responsibility to do that.”
© Stephanie A. Taylor (10/3/19) FF2 Media
Photos: Ask for Jane