The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Culture Corner—The Janes & the Devil’s Highway

Jun 20, 2022

Film: The Janes, 2022, documentary airing on HBO and streaming on HBO Max

The film documents what it was like before abortion was legalized with the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. Because of the civil rights and antiwar fights, many women were radicalized and rejected their own oppression.

The Janes shows whole wards in hospitals exclusively for treatment of women who suffered complications from back alley abortions and exposes the high death rate. It lays bare how society treated pregnant women, and how it was worse for working class women who didn’t have the money to fly to areas where abortion was legal. Women without resources had to face greater risk of death, racism, over-policing, and be subject to profiteering by black market medicine.

The film shows women responding to these conditions by organizing for more humane conditions, safe access to health care and abortion, birth control and a respect for their unique needs. The film highlights the efforts of a small heroic group of women in Chicago from 1967 to 1973 to provide safe illegal abortions. It is horrifying to realize these awful conditions may be facing pregnant women in the near future, and how organizing efforts are needed again today.

Book: The Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea, 2005

This book tells the story of 26 men and boys who tried to walk through the desert from Mexico into the United States. Only 12 survive. Rather than just telling a linear story, the author offers a kaleidoscopic view of the whole machine: the border patrol, Mexican gangsters, coyotes, Arizona, Texas, Vera Cruz, the Rio Grande, Sonora, and the eyeball-drying life-taking sweat-sucking scorching terrible devil’s highway itself. The book exposes the whole complicated picture of the crisis, lays bare the issues, the absurdities, the contradictions, and offers no easy solutions. Valuable reading about a crisis that gets worse by the day.