From the JANE Collective to the Post-Dobbs Health and Legal Landscape
In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that the United States Constitution protects a woman’s right to obtain an abortion. Prior to Roe, abortion was largely illegal in the United States and women who sought to terminate a pregnancy often had to resort to dangerous procedures that at times led to serious physical injury and death. In the late 1960s, a group of young women in Chicago formed the underground JANE Collective where, at their own legal peril, they provided counseling on abortion services to women. After the Roe decision, the Janes disbanded and for the next fifty years women in the United States were able to obtain medically safe abortions. All of that changed in June 2022, however, when the Supreme Court overturned the Roe decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, and for the first time in U.S. history took away a fundamental right. As Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan noted in their dissenting opinion in Dobbs, one result of the court’s “decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.” Predictably, many states have now banned and even criminalized abortion services, and women in those states once again face the risk of death to obtain appropriate reproductive healthcare.
To help us understand how the denial of access to abortion care in the pre-Roe and post-Dobbs eras has impacted women's health and economic welfare, and to learn about the current legal battle for women’s reproductive freedom, Barnard in Washington and Washington Hebrew Congregation are co-sponsoring a panel on abortion. Our panel includes three Barnard alumnae, who have played or are playing important roles in securing womens' access to reproductive health care, as well as the senior Rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation. Our panelists are:
Abby J. Pariser, B.A. Barnard College 1967, M.A. Roosevelt University 1975. Abby joined the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union at its founding in 1968, and in 1970 became a member of the Chicago Abortion Counseling Service, also known as the JANE Collective. During her tenure at JANE, Abby counseled women and girls seeking abortions. In 1974, Abby helped found a Planned Parenthood clinic in Wheaton, Illinois, where she worked until 1979. She has also been a member of the Suffolk Abortion Rights Coalition and is a current member of NOW. Since 1986, Abby has served as a Board Member and Officer of Kehillath Shalom Reconstructionist Synagogue. Abby will speak about her activities in the early 1970s as a member of the JANE Collective, and the economic and health impacts on women who are denied access to abortion care.
Dr. Cleopatra McGovern earned a B.A. from Barnard College in 2012, an MD from SUNY Downstate College of Medicine in 2017, and in 2020 completed a residency in family medicine at the Institute for Family Health in Harlem, NYC. Cleo currently works at the Community of Hope health clinic in Washington, D.C., where she provides a full spectrum of reproductive healthcare services to individuals who lack health insurance or are under insured. She also provides reproductive health care services to women on weekends at the Falls Church Healthcare Clinic. Cleo will discuss the University of San Francisco’s Turnaway Study, which found that women who were denied access to abortion care suffered significant adverse effects as well as her work at the Community of Hope health clinic.
Hillary Schneller, B.A. Barnard College 2009, JD Columbia University Law School 2012, (she/her) is a senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, where she has worked since 2014. Hillary was co-lead counsel in the 2022 Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, representing the last abortion clinic in Mississippi. She has led cases in federal and state court to secure and expand access to abortion and works on litigation to improve access to maternal health care in the U.S. She previously worked as an Equal Justice Works fellow at the National Women's Law Center. Hillary will discuss her legal work at the Center for Reproductive Rights, including as co-lead counsel in the Dobbs case, and the Center’s litigation strategy to secure women’s access to abortion in light of the Dobbs decision.
Rabbi Sue Shankman, B.A. Dartmouth College '91, Hebrew Union College -Jewish Institute of Religion '01, was elected senior rabbi at Washington Hebrew Congregation in August 2022. She is the first female President of the Washington Board of Rabbis, and is a current board member of the Jewish Women International where she serves on the JWI's National Clergy Task Force on Domestic Abuse. In 2006, she was honored with JWI's Women to Watch Community Leadership Award, and in 2014 received the Matthew H. Simon Rabbinical Award from the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Rabbi Sue will discuss the pro-choice perspective of Reform Judaism.
Through a separate email communication to our alumnae, and prior to the date of the panel, Barnard in Washington will help coordinate “watch parties” where interested alumnae can get together to watch the The Janes, a riveting and powerful documentary that describes the activities of Abby and her fellow JANE colleagues. In 2023, The Janes was nominated for four Emmy awards including Best Documentary. Alumnae can also watch Call Jane, a fictional movie about the Jane Collective.
Following the panel discussion, the Women's Committee of Washington Hebrew Congregation is sponsoring a lunch between noon and 1pm. Barnard in Washington alumnae and their guests may attend the lunch, offered at $20 per person, but space is limited. You may register for the lunch on the website for Washington Hebrew Congregation at: https://www.whctemple.org/event/reproductive-rights-in-america
Registration for this event on the Barnard in Washington website is available to: Barnard students, Barnard alumnae and their guests, as well as students and alumni of Columbia University and other invited colleges.