Jane: An Abortion Service

Director: Kate Kirtz, Nell Lundy

Institute History

  • 1996 Sundance Film Festival


According to activist Heather Booth, in the late sixties, “if you needed an abortion, you took your life into your own hands.” As women died from malperformed abortions, the medical establishment effectively ignored the increasingly serious health risk unwanted pregnancy posed. Jane: An Abortion Service documents the response of Booth and several other female activists to this crisis: they created an abortion collective that would be known by its code name, JANE.

Unfolding in intimate recollections by the women who were involved with JANE, the film relates a dynamic story of female activism. JANE began as a counseling and referral service within the University of Chicago community. When the women who comprised JANE became frustrated with the exploitive fees and insensitivity of male practitioners, they learned how to perform abortions themselves. By the time of its dissolution in 1972, JANE had grown to include 125 women acting as counselors and practitioners and had provided thousands of successful abortions, primarily to women from low-income groups. JANE made abortions accessible to women who had no other options without losing sight of its commitment to giving emotional support. Jane: An Abortion Service celebrates the bravery and success of these women, examining the complexity of their undertaking and the impact it had on their own lives.

Through ironic and often humorous archival clips from B movies and educational films, Jane: An Abortion Service conveys the stifling antifeminist climate of the late sixties. But the film is also a dark reminder of this same undercurrent in contemporary society. As one of the members of JANE observes, most of the problems surrounding women’s rights have not been solved by Roe v. Wade. Today abortion still remains unavailable or difficult in the majority of the United States.

— Lisanne Skyler

Screening Details


As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]