Abortion pills, including mifepristone, are still legal and available through Hey Jane.

Go back

Meet the Jane Collective: the groundbreaking abortion access group

What we can learn about expanding abortion access from this pre-Roe group.

Written by

Team Hey Jane
No items found.

Get 20% Discount today

Get it now

Throughout history, changemakers and innovators have helped expand access to abortion and ensure that people were able to receive the care they needed. That was particularly true in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when abortion was illegal in the US. It was during this time that a groundbreaking group emerged: the Jane Collective. Not only were they a central part of the fight for reproductive rights in the US, but they also directly provided care to thousands of people.

Here’s what you need to know about the history, operations, and enduring legacy of the Jane Collective—and how we can continue to be inspired by the work they did.

The Birth of the Jane Collective

The seeds of the Jane Collective, formally known as the Abortion Counseling Service of Women's Liberation, began in the mid-60s, when the civil rights activist and feminist Heather Booth helped a friend obtain a safe abortion; word spread, and more and more people reached out to her in the hopes that she could help connect them with care, too.

At the time, abortion was illegal in most of the United States, including Illinois, with very few exceptions. This legal restriction did not eliminate the demand for abortions but rather pushed them to pursue either expensive treatments (unaffordable to many) or unsafe procedures, often with devastating consequences for the pregnant people involved.

Booth reached out to other activists she knew to help her manage the increasing number of requests, and in 1969 the Jane Collective officially began in Chicago, Illinois.

How the Jane Collective helped abortion seekers

Operating under the code name "Jane," the collective provided abortions and counseling services to pregnant people from all walks of life. They maintained strict confidentiality to protect both their clients and themselves from legal repercussions. 

The organization put up posters and published ads letting people know that, if they were pregnant and didn't want to be, they could "call Jane." The number directed callers to an answering machine, where they were instructed to leave their name, phone number, and date of their last period. Someone from the Janes would then contact the caller, discuss the procedure, and—if they wanted to proceed—coordinate their safe (albeit illegal) abortion.⁠ 

While at first the Jane Collective was referring people out to other (mostly male) doctors—including some with dubious medical credentials—a few members learned how to perform a dilation and curettage abortion (the most common abortion method at the time), and they began performing abortions themselves.

Jane's services were revolutionary not just for their illegality, but for their approach to reproductive and sexual health care. The collective treated their patients with respect and care, providing a stark contrast to the impersonal and often judgmental medical establishment of the time. As one of their members once put it, "Their reason for having an abortion was their reason. I was not there to pass judgment.”⁠ 

They operated on a sliding scale fee system, ensuring that no patient was turned away for lack of funds. Between 1969 and 1973, it is estimated that the Jane Collective provided safe abortions for over 11,000 people.

Meet Hey Jane: modern, virtual abortion care

Get started

Meet Hey Jane: modern, virtual abortion care

Get started

The end of the Jane Collective and its impact today

The collective's operations came to an abrupt halt in the early ‘70s, but not for the reasons one might expect. In a dramatic turn of events, several members of the collective were arrested in a police raid in 1972. However, before their case could go to trial, the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, effectively legalizing abortion across the United States and rendering the charges against the Jane members moot. (If you would like to learn more about the Jane Collective, there is both The Janes, a documentary, and Call Jane, a Hollywood film, as well as a book called The Story of Jane.)

The legacy of the Jane Collective is broad reaching. It stands as a powerful example of direct action in the face of unjust laws, demonstrating how ordinary people can organize to fill gaps in health care access and support one another. We see this today, with abortion funds across the country—most run by volunteers and funded by individual donors—helping thousands of abortion seekers get the care they need, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. 

The Jane Collective also highlighted the importance of viewing abortion within the broader context of health care, themes that remain relevant in contemporary debates over reproductive rights. Today, abortion is common—1 in 4 people with a uterus will have an abortion—and therefore accessing care is an essential part of health care.

Today, as abortion rights face new challenges and restrictions in various parts of the United States and around the world, the story of the Jane Collective is a reminder of the resilience and resourcefulness of those who fight for reproductive freedom.

Janes throughout history have stood up for abortion access, and we at Hey Jane are proud to continue in that tradition—as the first and largest virtual abortion clinic operating legally in the US, we are committed to helping people access safe, effective, and discreet abortion care from the comfort and convenience of their phone. Unlike in 1969, we now have access to abortion pills and the technology to reach people virtually, no in-clinic visit necessary. We’ve helped tens of thousands of people get the care they need, and we’ll continue pushing for a world where all people have the autonomy to make decisions about their bodies and futures.

Abortion care from the comfort and convenience of your phone

Get started

Written by

Team Hey Jane

Want to take action?
Join the Un-Whisper Network

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Everything you wanted 
to know about yeast (including a few must-try recipes)
You were added to the list. Thank you!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.