As Roe v. Wade faces a direct challenge, criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors, local judges and cops begin to lay out what it would look like to criminalize abortion

Many of us today don’t realize how bad it used to be, pre-Roe.

In the early 1970s, law enforcement leaders in Chicago decided the practice of illegal abortion was intolerable in their city and, in a mostly forgotten chapter of history, undertook a campaign to root out those who performed the procedure in secret.

On a tip, police turned their attention to “Call Jane”, a feminist collective of young women who, since 1965, had provided safe but illegal abortions to roughly 3,000 Chicagoans per year. The collective was raided after two Catholic women told police their sister-in-law planned to have an abortion performed by the group.

A Chicago homicide detective was assigned to the case and traced “Jane” to the South Shore neighborhood, bordered by the blue waters of Lake Michigan. There, police raided an apartment, arrested nearly 50 people for questioning, and sent three women who were actively undergoing abortion treatment to the hospital.

Seven women were charged with 11 counts of performing an abortion and conspiracy to commit abortion. They would soon be dubbed the “Abortion Seven” by newspapers. But the Call Jane members protected people they served – they even ate index cards detailing patients’ contact information.

What will US’s future look like if abortion becomes a crime again?

In 1973, the “Abortion Seven” breathed a sigh of relief when the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Roe v. Wade, affirming the right to legal abortion.  Now, 48 years later, here we go again.  On December 1 (this Wednesday), oral arguments will be heard in preparation for the ruling that is expected next June.


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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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