Books By Patti Liszkay
Available On Amazon
and the sequel, "Hail Mary" https://www.amzn.com/1684334888
Available on Amazon.
The thing is, had this terrific movie come out a year or two ago it would have been a compelling period piece. But today its story is not only part of our nation's past, but may be our future, as well.
"Call Jane" is a fictionalized account of a real group of women in Chicago called The Janes - or collectively, Jane - who, from the late 1960's until 1973, ran a sort of underground railroad to bring women in need of an abortion to a safe, competent provider, as opposed to the back-alley butchers, extortionists and sexual predators who had the abortion market cornered before Roe v. Wade.
Elizabeth Banks plays the role of Joy, a perky, affluent 1968 Chicago housewife married to a lawyer and the mother of a teenage daughter.
However, abortion is illegal in Illinois, and though Joy makes the rounds seeking help to have her case ruled an exception that would allow for the termination of her pregnancy, all the doctors she meets with - all of them men - are either helpless to do anything or unsympathetic: after all, the baby has a good fifty percent chance of survival, even if the statistics are murkier on the the mother's chances.
And so Joy timorously descends into the grimy, dangerous, terrifying underworld of illegal back alley abortions. But along the way she discovers a phone number for someone named "Jane,"
But the film was also thought-provoking and revelatory. For me the most eye-opening scenes were those scenes that showed the abortion procedure step-by-step - well, only two steps, actually, dilation and curettage. With a preliminary shot of Novocaine. I couldn't believe how simple the procedure was, twenty minutes from start to finish. It became clear how, back in those days when women were denied abortions in a safe, sterile hospital setting at the hand of a reputable doctor, there were so many opportunists who saw selling and performing amateur abortions as an easy way to make an obscene amount of money from desperate women.
It seemed hard to believe, as "Call Jane" purported, that so many women sought abortions back in the day when they were illegal and frequently deadly. But it's true. After I saw the movie I researched the subject of the Janes and learned that in the years from 1969 to I973 the Janes helped over 11,000 women procure safe abortions. I also learned that, pre-Roe, every large hospital had an abortion sepsis ward to treat botched abortions where women often died.
I expect with abortion now banned in so many states the sepsis wards will be back in business.