”The Janes” with Tia Lessin & Emma Pildes


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“It’s a caper story, a heist movie, with women at the center. They were outlaws.” So says Tia Lessin (“Trouble the Water”), one of the directors of “The Janes”, the thoroughly engrossing new HBO documentary about… abortion. Set in Chicago, in the late 60’s and early 70’s, “The Janes”, also directed by Emma Pildes (“Jane Fonda in Five Acts”), tracks the mostly forgotten story of a courageous band of women, who, fed up with the lengths to which women had to go to seek abortions, took matters into their own hands (literally). “The Janes” was an underground service which provided safe, affordable – and illegal – abortions but also a social movement that transformed the lives of countless women.

Tia and Emma joined Ken on Top Docs to discuss how the film came together, why, after so many years, the Janes were eager to share their stories and how the film’s timing couldn’t be more impactful. How did Emma’s family connection to the Janes unlock the door to this incredible story? What led this group of diverse women to embark on such a project, at great personal risk to themselves? And, how was it that an illegal abortion service was allowed to operate as an open secret in this heavily Catholic city — until the day it wasn’t? Now that we are in a post-Roe world, nothing could be more timely, instructive or inspiring than “The Janes”.

“The Janes” is now available on HBO and for streaming on HBO Max.

Hidden Gem:

Tia Lessin: “In Search of Monsters

Emma Pildes: “Inquiring Nuns

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