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Arts & Culture
KPCW sends its most discerning moviegoers to the movies each week to let you know which films are worth going to, and which are a pass. The Friday Film Review airs after the Noon News at 12:30PM and during The Local View. KPCW Friday Film Reviewers are: Barb Bretz, Rick Brough, Mark Harrington, Linda Jager.

Friday Film Review -- "The Janes"

The Janes Film Poster.jpg
Courtesy of Sundance Institute
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The Janes - HBO Documentary Films, Pentimento Productions

When laws in this country disrespect women, some women feel empowered to disrespect those laws.

At Sundance 2022, three films focused on abortion issues in the 1960s and early 70s.

Happening, is based on a memoir, by French author Annie Emaux. in 1963, on track to graduate with honors, she got pregnant from her first sexual encounter and desperately sought termination. It won the prestigious Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival.

A drama, entitled Call Jane, stars Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver. A young, Chicago housewife and mother discovers an underground organization of women that assists women and girls with unwanted pregnancies to obtain safe, albeit illegal, procedures. She joins the Janes and eventually trains to perform the procedure.

The most enlightening and powerful of the three is a documentary called The Janes, directed by Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes.

In the 60s and 70s, birth control was not readily available for women. It was estimated that 200,000 to 1.2 million illegal abortions occurred annually. Women were often maimed and sometimes died as a result less than safe procedures. Hospitals even had a ‘septic wing’ dedicated to treating women suffering from dangerous illegal abortions.

As a young woman in Chicago, Heather Booth, was asked by a friend whose sister was pregnant and suicidal, if she could help find someone to terminate the pregnancy. She did. Then she was asked again, and again and again. An outspoken advocate and activist for Civil Rights, it wasn’t a big leap for her to begin advocating for women, their health and safety.

Booth formed an underground group called the Abortion Counseling Service of Women's Liberation, later known as ‘The Janes’. Fliers in phone booths, bathrooms, and places all over Chicago urged women in trouble to “Call Jane” along with their phone number.

From 1969 to 73, they facilitated 11,000 safe abortions. During a police raid in 72, seven members were arrested and charged with so many counts, each could receive over 100 years in prison if found guilty.

Knowing Roe v. Wade was being heard in the Supreme Court, their attorney delayed the trial in hopes the decision would strike down abortion restrictions. It did. Charges were dropped and The Jane collective was disbanded. The documentary includes interviews with some of the founders, clients and even a police officer involved in the arrest.

The Janes runs 1 hour and 41 empowering minutes. It is due to be released on June 8 and can be streamed on HBO.