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Is ‘Call Jane’ on Hulu Based on a True Story?

Call Jane, which is now streaming on Hulu, is both an inspiring and depressing movie to watch in the wake of the Supreme Court ending the constitutional right to abortion in the U.S. in 2022.

The film, which was directed by Phyllis Nagy, stars Elizabeth Banks as a 1960s conservative housewife named Joy, who falls pregnant with her second child. When she is told she will likely die in childbirth and is refused a life-saving abortion, Joy finds her life in the hands of an underground network of reproductive activists called “The Janes.”

While it’s inspiring to be reminded that women show up for each other, even when the law leaves them behind, it’s also depressing to realize that our country hasn’t come very far in the past 60 years. Still, the movie feels compelling and urgent. The scene in which Joy receives her abortion, in particular, is like nothing you’ve ever seen in a mainstream film before. And it’s all the more harrowing when you know that it’s based on a true story.

Read on to learn about the Call Jane true story.

Is Call Jane based on a true story?

Yes. Call Jane is based on the true story of a network of activists who helped provide underground abortions in 1960 and 70s Chicago. These activists called themselves “Jane,” or “the Jane collective.” People seeking abortions were told to “call Jane.” That said, the characters in Call Jane are not based on specific people. Elizabeth Banks’s character, Joy, is not a real person. Neither is Sigourney Weaver’s character, Virginia. If you’re interested in getting a just-the-facts version of the true story, you may want to check out the documentary about the organization, The Janes, which premiered at Sundance in 2022 before airing on HBO. The film is available to stream on HBO Max.

Though the characters in Call Jane are invented, the mission of the organization is based on the real-life collective. Jane members tried to give these women what they never got: clear, concise information about what an abortion would entail. Then they would drive them to an undisclosed location, where male doctors—or men who claimed to be doctors—would perform the procedure. And then, later, the procedure was performed by some of the women themselves. They charged because the procedures cost money, and the doctors demanded to be paid. But they tried to provide a sliding scale for those who couldn’t afford the fee.

Photo: HBO Max

The Jane collective used code names, safe houses, and fronts in order to secretly provide the then widely-illegal procedure to hundreds who needed it, including women who had been raped, women who might die in childbirth, and women who would have resorted to unsafe measures otherwise. The core group of women running the organization did so from 1969 to 1972, when police raided one of the safe houses and arrested seven members of the collective. Shortly after, in 1973, the Supreme issued its Roe v. Wade decision, making it much easier for women to access safe and legal abortion.

To learn more about the Jane Collective, you can watch the HBO documentary The Janes, streaming on HBO Max.