The True Story of the Underground Network Fighting for Women’s Rights That Inspired Call Jane

Elizabeth Banks in Call Jane.

Now streaming on Prime Video, Call Jane is a new film starring Elizabeth Banks, Sigourney Weaver and Chris Messina. It’s the story of the underground network of women who helped pregnant women access safe abortions at a time when it was illegal.

From the screenwriter of Carol, Call Jane is a similar exploration into how women have been controlled by men over time, and the brave and drastic action that it takes to break free.

Call Jane is inspired by true events, but how accurately does it portray women’s fight for bodily autonomy in the ‘60s and ‘70s? Here’s everything you need to know about Call Jane and the groundbreaking Jane Collective, the real life organisation that the movie is based on.

What Happens In Call Jane?

Joy is a suburban housewife with a loving husband, a teenage daughter and a privileged life she loves. When she’s told that her second pregnancy is life-threatening, she appeals to the hospital’s medical board for an emergency termination. The appeal takes place in a boardroom where Joy is surrounded by old white men. They hand down their judgement without any input from Joy, voting no because it’s statistically likely that the baby will survive, even if Joy dies.

Desperate, Joy briefly considers extreme measures: be ruled clinically insane and suicidal in order to be granted a therapeutic termination and or throwing herself down a flight of stairs. After abandoning those ideas, she visits an illegal abortion clinic run by men. It’s a dingy, abandoned office space in a bad part of town. Crying women wait for the doctor to see them, and when he’s ready to begin, he summons them into the room.

Joy runs out in horror and sees a poster that reads: “Pregnant? Anxious? Get help! Call Jane”.

By contrast, her experience with the Janes is all friendly faces, plush furniture and soft edges. A woman named Gwen drives Joy to her appointment and waits right outside the door for her. After the procedure, Joy is wrapped in a blanket and given a bowl of freshly made pasta by the organisation’s fearless leader Virginia (Weaver), who later invites Joy to get involved with the group.

Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver in Call Jane.

What Is the Jane Collective?

In 1965, university student Heather Booth learned that her friend’s sister had an unwanted pregnancy. Booth contacted the surgeon and civil rights leader T. R. M. Howard, who performed an abortion in secret. As word spread, Booth began receiving phone calls from other women and connected them to Dr. Howard using the pseudonym Jane.

Over time, Booth recruited and trained other women to continue the work to ensure “every woman having exactly as many children as she wants, when she wants, if she wants.”

Elizabeth Banks and Wunmi Mosaku in Call Jane.

How Accurate Is Call Jane?

The movie takes some liberties with the real life events of the Jane Collective, but the key elements are all there.

Joy and Virginia are an amalgamation of Heather Booth, but for simplicity’s sake, the fictional Janes’ are a smaller organisation than the Jane Collective. The latter had multiple women performing abortions and also provided cheap pap smears. The Jane Collective was raided by police in 1972, with several members arrested and charged with 11 counts of abortion and conspiracy to commit abortion — charges that carried a total prison time of 110 years.

Call Jane alludes to some of these activities but smartly focuses on the group’s original and primary goal. This way, it traces their growth over the years as we see Joy evolve from a conservative-leaning housewife to a feminist revolutionist. Now, as reproductive rights are in question once again, it’s more relevant than ever. Joy’s journey is appealing on an innate level — especially if you’re a woman — and the film spectacularly charts a number of emotions from fear to rage and, ultimately, hope.

Call Jane is now streaming on Prime Video. Start your free 30-day Prime Video trial today.

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This article was originally published on POPSUGAR Australia.