Abortion was legalized in America only in 1973, and just as was the case in the vast majority of countries, women who remained in a different state and did not really want to give birth, were mostly sentenced to various butchers who knew how to cost them their lives. Let’s just think of the fantastic Romanian “4 months, 3 weeks or 2 days” or the recent French “Event” based on the novel by Nobel laureate Annie Ernoux. Until the US Supreme Court in the case of Roe v. Wade ruled that the right to abortion is one of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and American women were condemned to similar gruesome procedures. Phyllis Nagy (Mrs. Harris), the main heroine of the biographical drama written by Hayley Schore and Roshan Sehti, never really thought about abortion.
The time of the action is 1968, and Joy (Elizabeth Banks) is an almost typical American housewife in her late thirties, whose husband Will (Chris Messina) is a successful lawyer, and they have a teenage daughter. Unexpectedly, Joy became pregnant again, but she feels that this time something is not right. Her doctor is about to give her a shock: she has a rare heart defect that occurs in pregnancy, and the pregnancy is very likely to kill her. The doctor advises her that an abortion would be the safest solution to her problems and that her chances of surviving the pregnancy are fifty-fifty. However, the problem is not only that because abortion is prohibited and punishable, but also that the hospital board, made up of course exclusively of old men, must approve the abortion, and this almost never happens.
Joy will not get permission to terminate the pregnancy either, which will force her to try to find some alternative solutions and she will discover the existence of a semi-secret organization that helps women in a similar situation. Although Joy wanted another child, she is not ready to pay such a high price and die, and an organization called “Jane” will help her to have an abortion in secret. However, this woman, who until then had not overly bothered with the fight for human rights, protests and everything that was happening in America at that time, will decide to join this organization herself. Of course, he will not tell anyone about his activities, and soon he will become the right hand of the head of the organization, Virginia (Sigourney Weaver).
So although it is obvious that “Call Jane” is a film with a strong activist flair, especially when you take into account the fact that some American federal states want to ban abortion again or have already banned abortion, this film captures the spirit of the times quite well. Although the whole story is told from Joy’s perspective, it is not a typical “abortion drama”, but more of a political – historical drama about a changing social situation and social climate. Elizabeth Banks is excellent in the role of Joy, a woman who, over time, will transform from an uninterested housewife who doesn’t bother at all with what happens beyond her home, into a woman who recognizes the social injustice around her and can no longer just sit quietly and watch.
Into a woman who decided to do something to make the world around her better and who realizes that the system is screwed up because women who will find themselves in a situation like hers will not be stopped by any laws and potential prison sentences. They will do what they have decided, only that they will often do it in unhygienic conditions, with various butchers who only care about collecting money. Either they simply won’t have the money to pay for these illegal procedures, so they will self-harm to kill the fetus, or they will get rid of the child immediately after birth. Of course, it is a complex topic that will probably always cause controversy and divided opinions, but “Call Jane” perfectly contextualizes the fight to legalize abortion and shows very well what it all looked like.