The Sequel of Jane:
Hidden Institutions + Coded Insurgence of the Abortion Clinic

Alternative newspapers in the ’60s went straight to the point: “Pregnant? Don’t want to be? Call Jane.” A telephone number followed. This was nearly half a century ago when abortion was illegal almost everywhere. There was no Jane, though, not literally anyway. Yet at the same time, Jane was anybody. The Jane Collective operated as an underground network of illegal abortions in Chicago, carrying out thousands of procedures from 1969 to 1973. Many operations were performed by medical nonprofessionals, perhaps the housewife next door, the college student down the block, or the local schoolteacher.

Like Jane, the subterranean metaphor of the “underground” has been a powerful tool of political resistance. A buried world, hidden from its oppressors, created forms of solidarity and self-understanding that shaped what was politically possible. Being underground meant adopting ethics and practices of spying, subversion, and subterfuge; dissimulation and double-crossing; marking and coding. The role of architecture in underground politics was crucial, oftentimes acting as the camouflage or cloak for insurgence.

Today, the abortion clinic exists as one of the most highly contested landscapes in the United States. Though legal on paper, abortion, and other reproductive healthcare services are becoming more and more difficult to access, while simultaneously being forced into invisibility by society. With restrictions around reproductive health and the autonomy of pregnant bodies in constant negotiation, the abortion clinic presents an opportunity to consider how design may help facilitate the transition of these spaces from outcast to normalcy. The project aims to learn from Jane, adopting methods of the underground to inform contested space today. The thesis considers tactics of spatial camouflage as a way of protection, rather than censorship, to positively impact a pregnant person’s experience and their access to these spaces; and in doing so, reasserting architecture's role in the everyday space of our built environment.