The Jane Crow Underground Railroad

Keith Frohreich
8 min readMay 7, 2022


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With his book, The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead probably brought more awareness to this historical feat than our history books. While part magical realism, not my favorite genre, it tells the excruciating, terrifying attempt by the main character, Cora, to flee to freedom. Whitehead won a Pulitzer.

With the advent of banning Critical Race Theory, not taught anywhere in the United States in grades 1–12, the Underground Railroad may never be taught ever again in parts of our country.

A Google search says that 100,000 slaves fled the South between 1810 and 1850. Not sure why the count ends in 1850, but let’s go with that number for now.

Thousands of slaves, not trusting a new life in the North, continued on, going to Canada. Smart people.

We will soon need a new underground railroad to help pregnant women get to states which will stand ready, as long as legally possible, to help a woman who chooses to abort, whatever the reason. And the reason is none of our business. To a limited extent, a makeshift support system already exists.

I say for “as long as legally possible” because if the Republicans control the White House and all of Congress in 2024, the first item on their docket will be a nationwide ban on abortion. Republican senators have already hinted at such.

Straight up, there is not a single Republican in the House or Senate who would not do everything in their power to facilitate an abortion for their wife, daughter or granddaughter if wanted. Period.

Hypocrisy is no longer a word that has any meaning when it comes to Republicans. When your look up hypocrisy in the dictionary, the first definition is Republicans.

A word about Justice Alito — when President Bush first introduced him in the Rose Garden, I felt something off-putting about his persona. Now, this case nailed it — Alito came across as a self-righteous, elitist ideologue, who was right out of the Federalist Society central casting.

This from Michael Moore about this ruling: “Both men and women have five main bodily systems. Women will now be allowed to maintain control of only four…their circulatory system, respiratory system, digestive system and their muscular/skeletal system. But not their reproductive system. That power now belongs to the government. Which makes women 4/5 of a citizen.”

I remember when Texas led the rabid dogs agenda with their abortion ban after six weeks. When the Supreme Court did not order an injunction or stay (which, in part, created private vigilantes), the dye had been cast. I told my wife at the time that I would be willing to go to Texas to chauffer women to another state. Then life interrupted.

In fact, Planned Parenthood reports that its clinics in states neighboring Texas saw an almost 800% increase in abortion patients.

One of those neighboring states, Oklahoma, just enacted their own extreme abortion law, so check that option off the list. Another Texas border state, Arkansas, is a “trigger” state, which means, new abortion stringent restrictions will kick in when the official Supreme Court ruling is announced in June. Louisiana will join 23 similar other states at that time. This leaves only New Mexico as a Texas bordering state still providing abortion services.

For women in Houston, that is a 1500 mile round trip to the New Mexico border outside of El Paso.

Not to be outdone in the race to the bottom, states are now making it illegal for a woman to leave a state for an abortion, even proposing that any person who abets them can be arrested.

Missouri considered such a law. The law did not get enough votes, for now. Watch this space.

An abortion litigation attorney said, “That’s the only plausible strategy I can see for anti-abortion lawmakers if they want to stop abortion tourism.”

That’s a new one — abortion tourism.

The crisis is so fluid, who knows where the bottom is.

Pause now, close your eyes, and think of the most draconian actions a state legislature could enact in the next 1–2 years regarding abortion, and it will be coming soon to a Republican-led state legislature.

Abortion is also just another issue now controlled by a small minority. Pew Research Center says that only 8% say abortion should be illegal in all cases, while another 29% said it should be illegal in most cases or with a few exceptions. But even in the most conservative states, those who feel abortion should be illegal tops out at 25%. Twenty-five percent of us now control the lives of all women. Thank you, founding fathers.

One would hope that a raped 12-year old would be an exception — but no. If this won’t drive you mad, nothing will.

One state legislature member said a raped 12-year old girl should consider it a gift from God. And, that her child might grow up one day to be president.

My wife, a Los Angeles County prosecutor for over thirty years, based on cases she has seen, says, “Go younger than 12.”

Yet many states are moving in the direction of that 8% super, super minority. It’s as if they are all trying to outdo each other in the race to see who is the most draconian and controlling.

Some nuggets from a Daily Kos web site article: Approximately 20 million women live in what are called “contraception deserts,” defined as those areas lacking “reasonable access in their county to a health center that offers the full range of contraceptive methods.”

Many women are too poor to have another baby, many living below the poverty line, and also cannot afford to travel to another state for abortion care. One study showed that women denied an abortion were more likely to file for bankruptcy or be evicted later in their lives.

Now there’s a Republican campaign slogan — ban abortions and create more homelessness and bankruptcies.

Banning Roe v. Wade will have major economic consequences. I am certain the five pro votes for overturning never gave this a second thought.

Tidbits from the Los Angeles Times — some states have draconian abortion laws on the books dating back decades but have not been enforced…until now — a different kind of trigger.

Today the Los Angeles Times has a page one story, “A New Focus on Pill Access.” This new method, a two-drug process, became common during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It appears that the future of abortion is moving to the mailbox. Now, abortion pills — medical abortions — are the most common types of abortions.

A 2015 study showed that the two mail-order drugs were effective 99.6% of the time at nine weeks or less of pregnancy.

From the LA Times: “Conservative states are already moving to restrict the ease with which abortion pills are dispensed.

Nineteen states prohibit pills from being prescribed via telehealth or delivered by mail, and 32 states limit which healthcare professionals can prescribe abortion pills.”

Others are focused on banning all self-managed abortions.

The governor of Tennessee just signed a law making it a felony with a $50,000 fine for anyone to get an abortion pill via mail.

There it is.

But there is also this — medications can be shipped discreetly. I remember having a shop in the Caribbean (patronized on a cruise) ship me Cuban cigars with no labeling. States and vigilantes do not get to open people’s mail — at least not yet.

One abortion aid access site puts the patient in touch with a European healthcare provider who then can get a prescription filled by a pharmacy in India. I love the Internet.

The fact is that enforcing online ordering and delivery of abortion medication will be impossible to manage.

Our country sucks at preventing all manner of drugs from coming across our borders. Can you imagine the cost of trying to stop small pills from coming into the country, or being mailed from state to state, or family member to a family member, or friend to a friend.

But that won’t stop the states from trying.

Unfortunately we are a nation of nosy, spying people, people who have self-deputized themselves in the service of God and righteousness. If you use abortion medications, know who your friends are.

Which brings me to the purpose of this blog. We need a new Underground Railroad system. Let’s call it the Jane Crow Underground Railroad, to liberate women from those (mostly white men) who want to control them and their bodies, who want to take away privacy, who want to push women backwards. Unfortunately we have too many compliant women (mostly Catholics) kowtowing to men. One of them sits on the Supreme Court.

I have not said much about the Catholic Church, but I will now.

Beginning with the Federalist Society, Catholic appointees were part of the far-right agenda. Six of the nine Supreme Court Justices are Catholic. This is on you, Catholic Church.

Let’s be clear, women without options will try whatever it takes to get an abortion, including the proverbial back alley, and what led to Roe v. Wade. Women will die. Justice Alito and Republicans do not care.

We are going to have to get very creative in this effort. That said, I do not know how we help the 12-year old who was raped. Where does she go for help?

Some action thoughts:

· Driving women across borders and in some cases more than one border. State lines are mostly open except in a few states. Even then they are not looking for women 12-weeks pregnant. But remember what Governor Abbott did at the Texas/Mexico border?

· Creating funds to buy bus tickets, train tickets, or plane tickets.

· Paying the cost of the abortion, and the trip. for the poorest of us.

· Volunteer for services that provide help, guidance or information.

· Volunteer to have the drugs sent to you and then you forward to a woman in banned states in a plain package. Pills are small and not easy to detect.

There are so many crises in our country today, and we are not even Ukraine. But we are under a different kind of assault. Striking down Roe v. Wade is just one of them. But all share a common thread — threats to our democracy.

Voting is not enough. Donating is not enough. Marching is not enough. Emailing and calling elected officials is not enough.

Unfortunately we are in a defensive, reactive situation, because it is not within us to imagine or scheme what such horrible, fascistic people might do. We are not like them. Yet they are amongst us, and for now, are winning the future.

Please, no violence, but as the departed John Lewis challenged us, “Get in good trouble.” Break a state law if you must. Go to jail if you must. Enough!

*I heard a lady law professor from UC Irvine use the term Jane Crow on MSNBC.



Keith Frohreich

Writer of books, blogs and newspaper columns. Due to the current threats to our democracy, my blogs, for now, will focus on those threats. If not me, who?