Entertainment

Doco paints bleak picture of US’ future

In the 1960s and ’70s, a group of women from Chicago decided to rebel against common wisdom and restrictive laws that said a woman’s body was not her own. Fuelled at first by ridiculous decrees like the fact that women couldn’t even get IUDs or birth control pills without being married, and later by the awful stories about women seeking illegal abortions, the women formed an organisation that they simply titled “Jane,” and which functioned as an underground call centre and abortion clinic. The documentary The Janes – which streams locally on Binge – looks back at the women at the helm and the logistics of the organisation, run-ins with the law, and the sheer tenacity of the group to stand up for what was right even if it meant breaking the law.The documentary is an ensemble piece much like Jane was during its 5-year run, but the inclusion of the police officer who arrests the women and effectively shuts down the group provides an interesting perspective. As a homicide Detective, his unit was assigned the case despite the fact that he and his partner had no interest or hard feelings toward abortion. “We weren’t on either side of the great philosophical debate,” he says. “We were just the guys stuck with the law.” He goes on to recount how Irish Catholic Chicago (and specifically, the Chicago PD) was at the time, and it is a reminder of how intertwined Christian and Catholic beliefs are with the law.Near the end, the women of the organisation reminisce about being part of Jane and what it meant to help over 11,000 women receive a safe (though still illegal) abortion. “I’m glad we could help them but we shouldn’t have had to go through it. That’s how I feel.” It’s a sad sentiment knowing all their hard work has been overturned.Stream The Janes on BINGE. New customers get a 14-day free trial and start streaming instantly. Sign up at binge.com.auThe documentary opens with a harrowing story of how one woman obtained an abortion: completely desperate, she got in touch with the local mob who organised treatment for her.Speaking only a few sentences to her in code the entire time and charging upwards of $1000, she and another woman went to a seedy motel in an unfamiliar area and had the procedure. They both left bleeding.The Janes is full of such stories that contextualise how much women went through to access reproductive healthcare — sometimes when it wasn’t even safe to do so — and shines a light on a group of determined and resourceful women that found a solution via “Jane,” an organisation that would help facilitate thousands of safe abortions from 1968-1973. Through old index cards with prospective patients’ information scribbled in pencil and a recounting of the police chase that led to its demise and their jailing, the women who created the clandestine network in 1960s Chicago retell the story of Jane through their eyes.All except one of the women featured in The Janes are white, but the members of the group are hyper-aware that their services were benefiting poorer women who were predominantly people of colour.The documentary doesn’t play this off as a white saviour story, though, and its inclusion serves the larger story that’s still true today — restrictions on abortion unequivocally affect marginalised communities, while wealthy (white) women will always find access.In the hands of capable documentarians Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes, The Janes tell a bleak but inspirational story about standing up for your values and fighting for equal rights, even when it seems like an uphill battle. Because it was filmed before the recent Supreme Court draft opinion was leaked, the film doesn’t speak to the backwards slide of the country though its release is certainly coloured by it. But if nothing else, it is a rallying cry that we have fought this battle before — and won – a bittersweet inspiring call to arms as history sadly repeats itself.This story originally appeared on Decider and was reproduced with permission

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