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What if your mother

June 1, 2022


“It’s a passionate rush of language, hope in a hard time, truth in the middle of lies. This poetry sparks and burns with the hidden language and stories of women” -Minnie Bruce Pratt


Judith Arcana, a reproductive rights activist formerly involved in Chicago’s pre-Roe v. Wade underground abortion service, imbues her poetry, fiction and essays with the same ferocity, humor and passion that informs her activism. As Grace Paley wrote, “What I love about this important book is how the work Judith began in Chicago years ago has deepened in poetry and prose with love for the lives of women.”


In light of the leaked 2022 decision regarding Roe, it’s more important than ever that we examine and promote reproductive rights and justice. Judith has been a tireless fighter on this front for decades. Hello. This is Jane. was published on the 48th anniversary of her 1972 arrest as one of the “Abortion 7,” which directly inspired the pieces in the collection. Hard to believe that 50 years later, we’re now in danger of losing the progress she and so many others fought so hard for. Previously Judith tackled the topics in poetry, with What if your mother, first released in 2005. Note that this 2nd edition of the book includes an updated preface.


“The title poem … should be made into a poster and pinned up on the wall in every clinic in the United States.” -Peter Bours, MD, longtime abortion provider


You can purchase the book from our Bookshop.org store (particularly if you want to support indy bookstores) and also from Amazon.com.


Also, you can learn much more about Judith’s story collection Hello. This is Jane. (including reviews, articles, and a “tiny movie”) right here.



What if your mother


Sometimes when you talk to them, in argument
they say, What if your mother had an abortion?
And then I say she did, because it’s true, only
that one wasn’t me, it was somebody else; nobody
but my mother ever knew that baby. But they
mean me, the people who say it, mean
what if she aborted me, like that’s hard
to answer. They’re so stupid, because what if
she miscarried or gave me away? What if
I drowned at the beach when I was three?
What if she loved someone else, not my dad?
Then I wouldn’t be here either. What if, what if.
What’s the point of asking this phony question?
All you could ever answer is, Then everything
would be different, wouldn’t it? One thing sure,
I wouldn’t be standing here talking to some jerk
who asked me that dumb question. I wouldn’t
be mad at my mother for doing it – would I?
I think you just have to tell these people,
Get real. That’s not what it’s all about.

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Judith Arcana

Judith Arcana is a Jane, a member of Chicago’s pre-Roe underground abortion service. She writes poems, stories, essays and books, including a much-loved biography of Grace Paley (Grace Paley’s Life Stories) and several poetry collections: What if your mother, 4th Period English, The Parachute Jump Effect, Announcements from the Planetarium, and Here From Somewhere Else, which received the Editor’s Choice Chapbook Award from Turtle Island Quarterly. Born and raised in the Great Lakes region, Judith has lived in the Pacific Northwest since 1995. For more about, and examples of, her work, visit JudithArcana.com.