One of the films this week is based on the Jane Collective, a group of Chicago women who in the late 60s and early 70s helped other women access abortion care despite its illegality. This was an era when the lack of medical care for abortion meant that women had to seek it out through back channels that often weren’t safe. In 1965, for instance, unsafe abortions accounted for 17% of women’s deaths in pregnancy. Low-income women were particularly at risk, with almost no chance of being able to find a doctor even through back channels.
By organizing, the Jane Collective was able to help women access an estimated 11,000 abortions, with no deaths being reported from the care. Seven of the women were arrested in 1972, each facing up to 110 years in prison for their work. One had a stack of index cards with patient information on them at the time of their arrest. In the police van, the Janes ripped the names and addresses off the cards and swallowed them in order to protect those women.
It’s especially important to be aware of past examples of successful activism in the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The 2022 Supreme Court decision overruled Roe v. Wade, making abortion once again illegal and otherwise restricted in many states. It’s worth understanding how women led in protecting others and fighting this in the past, whether through a movie like this week’s “Call Jane” (Hulu) or a documentary such as “The Janes” (HBO Max).
Whatever activism you engage in, remember to keep yourself protected so you can sustain it. The Janes had rules to ensure protection and privacy, and to ensure they weren’t showing bias or favor in who they helped. They knew the legal landscape of Chicago at the time, which allowed them to operate for years despite an unspoken common knowledge of their existence. They learned what to do in case of arrest, and what their legal resources were.
Let’s jump in. Please be mindful of the content warnings this week.
A new series comes from the U.S., while new films come from the U.S. and Vietnam.
Up Here (Hulu)
half-directed by women
Mae Whitman and Carlos Valdes play a couple who fall in love while fighting their embodied inner voices, often in musical form. The series is based on the musical by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.
Four of the eight episodes are directed by women, two apiece by Kimmy Gatewood and Rachel Raimist.
You can watch “Up Here” on Hulu. All 8 episodes premiere tomorrow, Friday March 24.
CW: life-threatening pregnancy
Call Jane (Hulu)
directed by Phyllis Nagy
Elizabeth Banks plays Joy, who can’t get a legal abortion for a life-threatening pregnancy. A group of women can guide her to help, and she might find a way to help others in return. Sigourney Weaver, Kate Mara, and Wunmi Mosaku co-star.
The story is based on the Janes, an underground activist network in the 60s and early 70s that helped women access abortion care despite its illegality.
Phyllis Nagy directs in her debut. She was previously nominated for an Oscar for her screenplay for “Carol”.
“Call Jane” is out now on Hulu.
CW: sexual assault
directed by Veronica Ngo
In this Vietnamese martial arts movie, a trio of women take apart a gang piece by piece for its abuse of women.
Veronica Ngo directs, stars, and co-writes. You may recognize her from supporting roles in actioners like “The Old Guard”, “The Princess”, or “The Last Jedi”.
“Furies” is out now on Netflix.
Perfect Addiction (Netflix)
directed by Castille Landon
A fight trainer finds her boyfriend sleeping with her sister. She decides to get revenge by training his nemesis to beat him.
Castille London has directed a number of romantic dramas and thrillers.
“Perfect Addiction” is out now on Netflix.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
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