Marie Learner is a member of the Janes, a Chicago-based underground network of women who facilitated thousands of abortions before they became legal in 1973. She has has been fighting for abortion rights for over 50 years.
Leaner said she knew at an early age, growing on up Chicago's South Side, that her life's work would be activism. In the late 1960s, before Roe v. Wade became law, she crossed paths with the Janes.
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Leaner admits she was hesitant to join at first, because she was the only Black member and was raised Catholic.
"It was really a leap of faith because I didn't know whether I could trust these people," she said.
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But soon, Leaner and the Janes found themselves risking everything to provide safe, low-cost abortions. The total number is estimated to be about 11,000. Many were performed in Leaner's apartment.
"There were these very nervous looking women who were scared to death, you know, because they didn't know what they were getting to," Leaner recalled. "And they didn't know how to trust. But I, I wanted to be the face of welcome."
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The Janes were arrested in a raid but charges were dropped when abortions became legal with the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.
Leaner said she was not surprised when it was overturned in 2022, and the 81-year-old encourages activists to stay vigilant.
"We can't stop," she said. "There's no stopping."
Tonight the YWCA of greater Chicago will host a screening of the documentary about The Janes at the University of Chicago. Leaner said she hopes it will inspire future generations of women to fight for what they believe in.