Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver take a stand for reproductive rights

When Sigourney Weaver and Elizabeth Banks read the script for Call Jane, a historical drama inspired by the Jane Collective, a real-life abortion-providing group, they both jumped at the opportunity to play women at different stages of their activism. But since the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion, the film began to resonate with her differently.

“It feels like it’s a great reminder of an era we’re re-entering, where we’re kind of going backwards instead of learning from our mistakes and moving forward,” says Banks, who stars as Joy, one Suburban housewife who becomes radicalized when denied the ability to terminate her life-threatening pregnancy.

“It took on a whole new urgency,” says Weaver, who stars as Virginia, the beating heart of the feminist crew. “[An abortion] is just reproductive health care, and they criminalize women for seeking the care they need.”

Were any of you familiar with the Jane Collective?

Elizabeth Banks: We didn’t know anything about them…

Sigourney Weaver: … But I was blown away by their commitment to each other and their respect for these women. The support and dignity they gave them during this process. Everything about the Janes was so inspiring. People protested a lot of things in the 70’s. And it made sense to me that my character would be marginalized at the anti-war protests because it was just men on the steps of City Hall just talking and talking and talking. I thought Virginia put all her unused energy into the Janes.

Banks: I liked the idea that we could honor these revolutionary women in Chicago. I felt, “What a really interesting way to shed light on this period.”

Elizabeth Banks, left, and Sigourney Weaver in the film "Call Jane"

Elizabeth Banks (left) and Sigourney Weaver in the film Call Jane.

(Wilson Webb/Roadside Attractions)

The timing of the film can’t help but be tied to politics. But what other takeaways would you like to give people?

weaver: I think we want to remind people to take it out of politics and encourage them, rather than judging and demonizing women, to have empathy and care about those most vulnerable in this process.

Banks: …which is pretty normal. There’s a mythology out there – and lies, frankly, especially for young women – that abortion can kill you. Which just isn’t true. It’s one of the safest medical procedures on the market – safer than many dental procedures, safer than a colonoscopy. One in four women in America will have an abortion in their lifetime.

Both Joy and Virginia are fictional but based on fact, right?

Banks: There were many women in the Janes. There wasn’t a single leader like Virginia, and there were obviously thousands upon thousands of patients. About four women learned the procedure over time. But I couldn’t be prouder of the response from the real Janes who are still alive today.

which was?

Banks: We only came into contact with a real Jane at the Sundance screening, which was supposed to be in person but was forced to go virtual at the last minute. We were all on a zoom for the Q&A afterwards and [Jane founder] Heather Booth was in the audience. And she zoomed in and said how honored she was by the film and that we got it right. I cried. That’s all you can hope for when trying to depict a feeling, an energy, a moment, a movement.

weaver: That real sisterhood. I had their mug shots. Some were very young women. It was like a family of women coming together to help other women. That they performed the procedures themselves? I’m just so moved by what they did. It’s so brave – and they did it with so much love. For me, this shows once again that women can find consensus and work together. And we take it for granted. We’re not into any of that look-me-bull.

When you were filming Call Jane, did any of you anticipate the landmark Supreme Court ruling?

Banks: Yes, and to be honest, I’ve been told by people who love me, ‘Oh, you’re hysterical. You’ll never topple Roe.” I don’t look so hysterical now.

weaver: Elizabeth was ahead of me on that.

Banks: The other thing I like to remind people about is that abortion is not particularly controversial in American society. The majority of Americans in this country want safe, legal abortions for women to back them up in everything that is going on in their lives. They know what their lived reality is. The thing is, we have a lot of sex for fun, not just to have babies. We don’t want lifelong consequences for this fun. I also say to anyone who brings religion into play that whenever we talk about it, I think forced religion, in whatever form, never has anything to do with belief. It’s all about control. We live in a democracy, not a theocracy. Your god may not be my god.

Were there anti-abortionists at any of the Call Jane events?

Banks: I just said this morning that I’m surprised we don’t have more protesters. Maybe they just aren’t really aware of it. We’re probably not in their algorithm.

weaver: They’re probably saying, ‘Oh, those liberal chicks. They’re always talking about something that’s nonsense.” But I hope people will just go out and see this film about women who believe that every woman should have as many children as she wants, when she wants. That was the Janes ethos.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/awards/story/2022-11-21/call-jane-elizabeth-banks-sigourney-weaver Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver take a stand for reproductive rights

Sarah Ridley

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