As the fate of the abortion-legalizing Roe v. Wade teeters on extinction, Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver headed to Sundance with a new drama, “Call Jane,” that tells the story of an underground movement to provide abortions in Chicago, and open up about a woman’s right to choose.
In the film, Banks plays Joy, a smart wife and assistant to her lawyer-husband who discovers that she has been diagnosed with a rare condition that could kill her if she carries her unborn baby to term. But when her abortion is denied by an all-male medical board, she finds refuge with a group of women involved in The Jane Collective, an underground group secretly providing abortions in Chicago.
The Jane Collective was a service that ran from 1969 until 1973 when the Roe v. Wade ruling was handed down, and its history is also explored in the documentary “The Janes,” which is also on the Sundance program this year. Banks said that working on the film was a reminder that it wasn’t that long ago that women in the U.S. did not have reproductive freedom and that it made her think of the women in her family that didn’t have ownership of their bodies.
“I really love in this movie how ordinary the decision was [to have the abortion] and how clean and clearly Joy makes it,” Banks told TheWrap Editor in Chief Sharon Waxman at TheWrap Sundance Studio. “She’s really excited to live and values her life and her time with her daughter and her time with her husband.”
Weaver plays Virginia, the leader of the Jane Collective chapter that Joy secretly joins who doesn’t hold back her thoughts and is able to convince anyone on her team into anything. The three-time Oscar nominee said she recalls when Roe v. Wade was handed down by the Supreme Court and remembers seeing it as “earth-shattering.”
“It felt as if suddenly we were visible,” she said. “We felt as if it were one of many breakthroughs that women would have and that we have had, and the last thing I thought would ever happen is that we would ever go back to those sad, desperate days when women would self-induce and when there were terrible things happening with these illegal abortions.”
For more remarks about “Call Jane” from director Phyllis Nagy and co-stars Wunmi Mosaku and Grace Edwards, watch the clip above.