Sundance 2022 Review: “The Janes”

Year: 2022


Runtime: 101 minutes


Directors: Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes

By Morgan Roberts

The Jane Collective was an underground clinic for Chicagoan women in the 1960s and 1970s.  Before Roe v. Wade provided legal protection for women and uterine people seeking to terminate pregnancies, women did not have very many options.  Many times, women would find themselves working with mob doctors or having to pay money they simply did not have.

Abortions, while illegal, were still happening, just not safely.  That is where the Janes stepped in.  In this documentary film by Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes, the women and men of Jane Collective recounted their work.

The documentary highlights the stories of women who started the collective.  The women who would organize and build relationships with doctors in order to provide others with access to abortions.  From there, the women employed a man who was trained by a doctor before taking matters into their own hands.  

The film dissects the intersectional issues, including socioeconomics and race.  Most of the Janes were white women but saw a great need in lower socioeconomic areas and the Black community in Chicago.  We see how those barriers expanded when New York legalized abortion and with a growing need for access to poorer communities.  

Most importantly, the film details how community organizations fighting unjust laws was not so long ago.  The decision for Roe v. Wade was 49 years ago.  And in the Q&A following the film, members from the Jane Collective noted that abortion rights may have been protected in 1973, but they have always been under attack – as they are now in the United States.  

“The Janes” is a critical film for audiences to see.  HBO already has plans for distribution.  It is a snapshot of the extremely recent past and a possibly not-so-distant future.  It deconstructs the many ways activists fought against inhumane laws while providing services to their community members to try everything to keep them safe. 

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