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‘There’s always something to be done’: how the Janes provided illegal abortions before Roe | Documentary films

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Regardless of whether the supreme court fully overturns Roe v Wade later this month, as indicated by the majority draft opinion leaked in May, or merely allows it to be gutted at the state level, the US will continue its years-long march backwards on reproductive rights. Abortion access in the US in 2022 mirrors 1972, the year before the supreme court ensured a woman’s right to an abortion with Roe v Wade, and a time when a sparse patchwork of legalization in a few states forced many women to seek care from dubious illegal providers or dangerous at-home methods.

The Janes, a new HBO documentary on an underground network of abortion providers in Chicago in the years just before legalization, looks to this past as a window into America’s likely post-Roe future – a US without a woman’s right to choose that is less dystopia than memory. The 101-minute film, directed by Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes, traces the personal political evolutions of several members as well as the development of the group from collection of activists who connected women with safe abortion providers – male doctors, or men who claimed to be doctors – to performing the procedure themselves. The group eventually provided over 11,000 abortions, many to poor women who could not afford another option. The same women – poor, rural, people of color, often young – who are left behind now by the extreme measures passed by Republican state legislatures banning abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before most women know they’re pregnant.

“This film is instructive about what this country looks like when women’s healthcare – basic healthcare – is criminalized,” Lessin told the Guardian. “Because what we know to be true is that when abortion is illegal, it doesn’t mean that women stop seeking abortions. It just means that they don’t get access to safe abortions.” As a former Chicago ER doctor notes in the film, his hospital’s septic abortion ward – a standard feature before Roe – admitted 15-20 women a day with injuries or infections, sometimes lethal, from attempted abortions.

That danger prompted Heather Booth, interviewed in the film, to find a doctor to provide a friend’s sister with an abortion as a college student in 1965. As word of mouth spread, Booth gathered several friends from the women’s movement to share the workload, which informally became the Janes. The network eventually included numerous safe houses, clandestine drivers, phone staff, pseudonymous flyers and once they learned one of their top doctors did not have medical license (he also appears in the film and speaks frankly about his motivation: under the table money), training to do the procedures themselves.

“There are many ways in which this film gives us an example of what it looks like to be of help and of use. And unfortunately, we’re going to need more and more of that in the years to come,” said Lessin. “It’s sort of a kick in the ass and maybe a call to action. We shouldn’t be sitting on our hands and sighing about the state of this country. There’s always something to be done. And in this case, they decided to create this network.”

The film, which includes interviews with several former Janes and archival footage of late ’60s protests in Chicago, is part of a collection of recent films revisiting the pre-legalization past as access eclipses in the US. Happening, a film from French director Audrey Diwan, turns novelist Annie Ernaux’s memoir of searching for an illegal abortion in the 1960s into a thriller. The feature film Call Jane, starring Elizabeth Banks as a fictional Jane client-turned-member-turned-abortion provider and Sigourney Weaver as a dauntless organizer modeled in part on real-life leader Jody Parsons, premiered at Sundance earlier this year and will get a wide release this fall.

Call Jane, directed by Phyllis Nagy, enlisted Jane member and documentary participant Judith Arcana as a historical consultant. Arcana was among the seven Janes arrested by Chicago police in 1972 in a sting operation and charged with conspiracy to commit abortion, with the threat of 110 years in prison. “We were ordinary women trying to save people’s lives, but we were criminals,” Arcana says in the film. (The group’s lawyer, Jo-Anne Wolfson, stalled the trial until the Roe verdict dismissed their charges.) Arcana’s son, Daniel, began production on what would become the documentary in 2016, when Trump was elected and “the writing was on the wall,” said Emma Pildes, his sister and the film’s co-director.

The context in the late 1960s is different than now, but the reasons people seek abortions – in fear, confidence or, often, desperation – remain the same. She wasn’t ready. Rape. Lack of finances. Struggling to stay afloat with the kids she has. Medical risks. She simply doesn’t want to have a child. In one of the most poignant sequences of the film, several Janes hold up the index cards used to keep track of the calls, which were read aloud and passed around to members for follow-up. There are stacks of them, each an individual case with notes such as “afraid of pain,” “terrified,” “21, has one kid, $0,” and “be cautious father is a cop.”

Martha Scott, Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Abby Parisers, Sheila Smith and Madeline Schwenk
Martha Scott, Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Abby Parisers, Sheila Smith and Madeline Schwenk Photograph: HBO/AFP/Getty Images

“They weren’t just cards, you know? They were people, and I knew they were women like me,” says Diane Stevens.

Each Jane also remembers the ones who got away or could not be reached, such as a 19-year-old Black woman who entered their safe house with an infection from a botched abortion and, when told she needed to go to the hospital, fled. The Janes later learned she died of septicemia. “We felt an enormous amount of guilt connected to this,” says Martha Scott, a former Jane, in the film. “Not that this was our doing, but she came through our hands, and we didn’t do enough.”

“We show really clearly in the film what happens when abortion is legal in one state and not legal in another,” Lessin said. “We saw who’s able to make the trip and who gets left behind. It’s very cut and dry. It’s along racial lines, it’s along economic lines – we saw it then and we’re seeing it right now, and we will see it on steroids in the coming years.”

The threat of anti-choice legislation is clear on the horizon; 13 states have so-called “trigger” bans ready to go into effect the day Roe is overturned, passed by conservative legislatures deeply out of step with more nuanced public opinion, which favors abortion access. Reproductive rights epitomizes the hardening of minority rule in the US; the issue is not changing public opinion but having a democracy which reflects it.

Asked, along those lines, if they hoped to reach anti-choice audiences, Pildes answered: “We don’t need to,” as most polls find between 85% to 90% of Americans think abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances. “It would be nice and certainly one of the things that we want to promote is dialogue. We want people to be having conversations about it for various reasons, not just to change hearts and minds but to de-stigmatize it and make people who have had abortions not feel like pariahs, shamed or that they’ve done something wrong.”

“We can’t control what people do with what we’ve done,” said Lessin. “Mostly I hope that, after the credits roll, they can feel the emotions around what it looks like when abortion is criminalized. That they can feel the anger that we felt, they can feel the commitment to prevent us from going back.”

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Kevin Lankinen, Predators take down Islanders 4-1

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Kevin Lankinen made a career-high 48 saves and the Nashville Predators beat the New York Islanders 4-1 on Friday night for their seventh victory in nine games.

Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi scored and Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund added empty-net goals. The Predators have won nine straight games against the Islanders, the longest active streak against a single opponent. The Predators are 11-1-1 in their last 13 overall against the Islanders.

“Lanky knew what he was doing. We had great goaltending,’’ Forsberg said. “The reason we are happy is the play of our goaltender.”

Mathew Barzal scored for New York midway through the third period.

“That’s a good hockey team over there,’’ Barzal said of the Predators, who are 7-1-1 in their last nine games. “They are heavy and strong with good D. It could have gone either way.”

The Predators were coming off 4-3 comeback win at New Jersey on Thursday night in which they scored with nine seconds left in the third period and won 33 seconds into overtime.

“We played two solid games against two very good teams,″ said Duchene, whose goal was the 300th of his career. “The Islanders threw the kitchen sink at us in the third.”

Forsberg opened the scoring on a power play with 5:42 left in the first with his eighth goal of the season. Duchene and Josi assisted.

Josi, the Predators captain, made it 2-0 on a power play at 8:22 of the second. Forsberg and Duchene assisted.

Josi has 10 points in his last seven games against the Islanders, including four assists in Nashville’s 5-4 home Nov. 17. The Swiss-born defenseman is four points from tying David Legwand for most points (566) in Predators history.

Lankinen made nine saves in the first, 18 in the second and 21 more in the third. The 27-year-old Finnish goaltender played the previous two seasons with Chicago.

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“Kevin was great. He was really good down the stretch,’’ Predators coach John Hynes said. “It’s great to see him get rewarded.”

Islanders Lane Lambert said he was pleased with the Islanders’ offense which generated a season-high 49 shots. But Lankinen was there to stop all but one as the Islanders lost for only the fourth time in 12 home games.

“We did a good job at times,’’ Lambert said. “It was just one of those nights.”

Predators defenseman Ryan McDonagh left the game nine minutes into the third period after he was struck in the nose on a shot by Islanders defenseman Alexander Romanov. McDonagh, the former Rangers captain, wears a face shield.

The Islanders scratched forward Kyle Palmieri, who was placed on injured reserve on Thursday retroactive to Nov. 21 … The Islanders also scratched forwards Cal Clutterbuck (day-to-day with an undisclosed injury) Ross Johnston and Hudson Fasching, who was recalled from AHL Bridgeport on Thursday along with Cole Bardreau who skated in Clutterbuck’s spot on a line with Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin … The Predators scratched forwards Eeli Tolvanen and Cody Glass.

Islanders: Host Chicago on Sunday night,

Predators: At Tampa Bay on Thursday night.

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WHO estimates 90% of world have some resistance to Covid | Coronavirus

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The World Health Organization estimates that 90% of the world population now has some resistance to Covid-19, but warned that a troubling new variant could still emerge.

Gaps in vigilance were leaving the door open for a new virus variant to appear and overtake the globally dominant Omicron, the WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said.

“WHO estimates that at least 90% of the world’s population now has some level of immunity to Sars-CoV-2, due to prior infection or vaccination,” said Tedros, referring to the virus that causes the Covid-19 disease.

“We are much closer to being able to say that the emergency phase of the pandemic is over – but we’re not there yet,” he told reporters.

“Gaps in surveillance, testing, sequencing and vaccination are continuing to create the perfect conditions for a new variant of concern to emerge that could cause significant mortality.”

Last weekend marked one year since the organisation announced Omicron as a new variant of concern in the Covid-19 pandemic, Tedros noted.

It has since swept round the world, proving significantly more transmissible than its predecessor, Delta.

Last week, the latest real-world study of updated Covid boosters showed that new vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are likely to provide better protection compared with the original shots.

The study of more than 360,000 people indicated that the boosters offer increased protection against new variants in people who have previously received up to four doses of the older vaccine.

Since their introduction to the US in September, the vaccine boosters, which contain both original and Omicron BA.4/5 coronavirus strain, provided greater benefit to younger adults aged 18-49 years that those in the older age group.

Tedros said there were now more than 500 highly transmissible Omicron sub-lineages circulating – all able to get around built-up immunity more easily, even if they tended to be less severe than previous variants.

Around the world, 6.6 million Covid deaths have been reported to the WHO, from nearly 640 million registered cases. But the UN health agency says this will be a massive undercount and unreflective of the true toll.

Tedros said more than 8,500 people were recorded as having lost their lives to Covid last week, “which is not acceptable three years into the pandemic, when we have so many tools to prevent infections and save lives”.

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Kevin Durant, Nets beat Raptors to tally fourth win in a row

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Make it four in a row and seven of their last nine.

The Nets are one of the hottest teams in basketball and moved two games above .500 with a 114-105 victory over the Toronto Raptors in front of a sellout 17,732 fans at Barclays Center on Friday night.

They led by as many as 36 points before letting the Raptors creep back into the game late in the fourth quarter.

After digging a 2-6 hole to start the season, the Nets (13-11) have pulled a complete 180. They are inching closer toward contender status, though they still have tremendous ground to cover separating themselves from the cream of the NBA crop.

And it both looks and feels different when the Nets aren’t leaning too heavily on Kevin Durant — or Kyrie Irving, as they did for unending stretches last season.

Durant’s minutes have become a point of contention in Brooklyn, as they were last year. He entered Friday’s matchup as the league’s leader in minutes, points and field goals. At age 34 and in year 15, the Nets star is averaging 37 minutes per game for the second consecutive season.

“We’ve had to play Kevin more minutes than we’ve wanted to,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said ahead of tipoff. “That’s just kind of where we are. He understands that.”

It hits different, though, when Durant has help, and it reflects on the scoreboard.

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Sharpshooter Joe Harris got hot early, scoring 11 points in the first quarter alone. After breaking out of his shooting slump to hit four out of six threes in Wednesday’s win over the Washington Wizards, Harris, who is starting in place of the injured Ben Simmons (calf strain), hit another five threes for 17 points against the Raptors on Friday.

Royce O’Neale hit a trio of timely threes, and Kyrie Irving shouldered a large chunk of the scoring load, scoring 27 points on 17 shot attempts. Veteran forward TJ Warren, in his Nets debut after missing two-plus seasons with consecutive stress fractures in his left foot, scored 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting off the bench.

And Nic Claxton added 15 points and nine rebounds, sealing the game with a putback dunk, then offensive rebound and finish that extended the Nets’ lead back to 16.

He forced Raptors coach Nick Nurse to call his second to last timeout with four minutes left in the fourth.

It was Durant’s lightest workload of the season. He still played 38 minutes but they were low impact. He only took 10 shots and finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

The Nets built a lead as large as 36 and watched the Raptors whittle the deficit down to as little as seven in the final minute of the fourth quarter. It wasn’t a pretty finish but nothing has come easy for the Nets this season.

They have a chance to make it five in a row on Sunday, though they’ll have to go through last year’s Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics to get there.

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