Call Jane stars Elizabeth Banks as Joy, a stay-at-home wife pregnant with her second child. Joy and her husband Will (Chris Messina) soon discover that Joy’s pregnancy is causing her congestive heart failure. The doctor gives her two options: die carrying the child or have an abortion. It’s 1968, still a few years away from Roe vs. Wade, and abortions are illegal underground operations. After a scare, Joy discovers “Call Jane” a service involving a network of suburban woman who arrange abortions for women in need. The initiative is run by Virginia (Sigourney Weaver) who takes Joy under her wing. Corrupt doctor Dean (Cory Michael Smith) charges $600 per procedure which is out of reach for most women who seek the service. Joy and Virginia team together to make abortions available to more applicants but do so in a safe, affordable yet unconventional way. Joy does all of this while keeping it secret from her husband, daughter (Grace Edwards) and neighbor Lana (Kate Mara).
Based on the true story of the Jane Initiative, Call Jane is directed by Phyllis Nagy, best known for her stunning adaptation Carol (2015). Call Jane has similar pacing as Carol. The film takes its time telling its story. Patient viewers will be greatly rewarded. Call Jane shines a spotlight on the history of abortion but also offers us a look into a future where abortions may become illegal again. Women will seek out abortions regardless of their legality and while the Jane Initiative saw no casualties, many other women have died from botched back alley abortions. This film won’t change anyone’s mind about abortion. But it does serve as a reminder of how far we’ve come and what we have to lose.
Call Jane premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.