Call Jane – An underground abortion movement saves lives

Call Jane stemmed from a general meeting that Kevin McKeon had with the writers, Hayley Schore and Roshan Sethi, nearly six years ago. McKeon, a pro-choice and women’s rights advocate, was intrigued when they told him they were writing an abortion drama that centers itself on the true story of the “Janes,” an underground collective of women, who in Chicago during the 1960s, came together to secretly provide nearly 12,000 women and girls with safe and secure abortions. It was the subject matter that he had always wanted to explore in a film.

“After the meeting, I didn’t hear them for six or seven months,” said McKeon. “And then suddenly they called and said they were ready to go out with the script. I read it and loved it. I sent it to Robbie Brenner, and she loved it. We optioned it right away.”

“After the meeting, I didn’t hear them for six or seven months,” said McKeon. “And then suddenly they called and said they were ready to go out with the script. I read it and loved it. I sent it to Robbie Brenner, and she loved it. We optioned it right away.”

Producer Kevin McKeon

The story affected Brenner on a deep level. “I had to make the movie,” she said. “It’s scary to think that it’s 2021, and this issue of abortion and Roe v. Wade is brought up again and again. Marijuana is legal in many states and will likely get approved on the Federal level, and yet a woman still doesn’t have a right to choose what to do with her own body.”

She sent the script to her producing partner David Wulf, who was equally committed to getting the film off the ground.

Wulf noted that he wasn’t surprised when Call Jane’s storyline was off-putting enough to investors, that they initially had trouble raising the funds to get the film off the ground. However, he was surprised that some people who said they supported a women’s right to choose, were too afraid to get involved.

As development progressed to shooting the film, Wulf observed what had gone right with the project. “People came on board because they believed in the project and were passionate about a women’s right to choose, and that’s really consistent with what Robbie and I had always wanted.”

During the development process, the producing team met and consulted with some of the original Janes.

How do filmmakers tell a narrative story about a subject that shouldn’t be controversial but is, shouldn’t be manipulated as a political tool by government and religious institutions but is? And despite the Supreme Court ruling nearly five decades ago, as well as the fact that the majority of Americans are pro-choice, a women’s right to choose remains a cultural flashpoint. Brenner was fascinated by their unstinting commitment to offering safe abortion care before the procedure was legal. “It was very, very risky,” she noted. “They were thinking way out of the box. What they did, and what they eventually accomplished in a relatively short time, was nothing short of revolutionary.”

Making a movie about female empowerment and having mostly women characters to cast meant it was essential to find the right director to tell the story. Brenner reached out to Phyllis Nagy, who aside from being known for her talent as a writer and director, is highly regarded for her extraordinary preparation, meticulous attention to detail, and nuanced approach to scenes and dialogue.


“Phyllis is absolutely unwavering and she was like this from working on the script and doing her rewrites to picking the locations, picking the department heads, and casting the movie,” said Brenner. “She even storyboarded and shot-listed the whole film. She’s very specific about what she wants to do, and how she wants to shoot.”

McKeon also remarked that Nagy’s ability to take the mature and very polarizing subject matter and render it with grace, allowed the characters to become fully human and inherently likable. He also felt assured by Nagy’s confident shooting style. She seemed to always get it right, rarely filming more than two takes of a scene, all of which lent itself to Call Jane’s lean budget.

Nagy was steadfast in her desire to not present a fictionalized, nostalgic version of the 1960s. “We have had enough of that already,” she said. “I really wanted to show how real people, maybe without access to tons of money would wear their clothes, and what their homes looked like and how they would furnish them. We were careful to never buy into the myth of what the Sixties were like. As someone who was a young child at the end of that period, I knew that what we often see on screen, these beautiful lavish recreations of mods and all that, is not the world I recognize.”

Phyllis Nagy

Elizabeth Banks was drawn to the story’s core tenet –that women connected with one another to share knowledge and provide support. “I felt like I was joining a long tradition of women caring for and helping each other,” she said. “This goes back thousands of years, you know, healers, midwives, the red tent. These were communal experiences. And Phyllis, she’s taken the torch and run with it. She’s very clear about what this story means, and what she wants to convey about the stasis of the fight for reproductive rights. It’s not like taking your medicine though, it’s all very human and completely relatable.”


Sigourney Weaver didn’t know about the Janes when she read the script, she was also one of the few actors on the show who remembered what life was like before Roe v. Wade. When she was in college Weaver was acutely aware of how the lack of access to birth control and abortion adversely affected women.

“It was really the bad old days,” she said. “Reading a script about women who banded together in secret to take care of other women touched me deeply. I wanted to be a part of it. I think the cast and crew that Phyllis gathered together have been supercharged with energy and hold a real devotion to telling this story.”

With the increasingly conservative Supreme Court willing to hear the Mississippi challenge to Roe v. Wade, there is an opportunity, on the Federal level, to eliminate or greatly reduce a women’s right to choose.

Considering that a woman’s agency over her own body remains imperiled, it’s critical that we hear stories of the women who resisted, who performed or obtained illegal abortions despite the very real threat of a prison sentence or the loss of livelihood, family, and friends, or even their own lives.

“No one wants to go back to the days that we’re making the movie about,” said Nagy. “It’s terrifying to think that the right to a woman’s own body may no longer be up to that woman Brenner added that it should be inconceivable that we’re still having to fight over reproductive rights. “It’s so antiquated and archaic, and just so sad. To not be able to make what should be a private healthcare decision, is like we really haven’t come such a long way.”

“This story takes place nearly 50 years ago, that time period includes the birth of most GenX, and all Millennials and GenZ,” said Mosaku. “It’s time to tell younger audiences what the struggle was. I don’t think young people understand. I don’t think young women can even comprehend what it must have been like.”

“Every woman has a different reason to choose to terminate a pregnancy,” said Weaver, “but they’re all urgent. They all need to be listened to.”



On December 1, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case about a blatantly unconstitutional Mississippi law that would ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. This case is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed the constitutional right to abortion.

In the almost 50 years since Roe, anti-abortion politicians have waged incremental attacks against abortion access. With this Mississippi case, they are now demanding outright that the Supreme Court ignore established legal precedent and completely overturn Roe. By agreeing to hear the case, the Supreme Court has signaled its potential willingness to overturn decades of its own decisions upholding abortion rights. In a separate development, the Supreme Court allowed a Texas law banning abortion at six weeks to go into effect in direct violation of Roe.

Abortion at the Supreme Court. The justices’ upcoming ruling on a Mississippi law could dramatically change abortion access in the U.S., including possibly overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which established a constitutional right to abortion.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned. Abortion would remain legal in more than half of states, but not in a wide swath of the Midwest and the South. While some women will be able to travel out of state or rely on pills to terminate a pregnancy, many in lower-income groups might not have access.

On the state level. Ahead of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Republican-led state legislatures aren’t waiting to advance new restrictions on abortion. On March 3, Florida passed a ban on the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Who gets abortions in America? The portrait of abortion has changed with society. Today, teenagers are having far fewer abortions. The typical patient is most likely already a mother, poor, unmarried, in her late 20s, has some college education and is very early in pregnancy.

Abortion pills. Medication abortion has increasingly become the most accessible and preferred method for terminating pregnancy. More than half of U.S. abortions are now carried out with abortion pills, and the F.D.A. has said it will permanently allow patients to receive them by mail.

PHYLLIS NAGY (Director) is an acclaimed, award-winning filmmaker. She earned Oscar and BAFTA nominations and won the NY Film Critics Circle Award for her adaptation of Patricia’s Highsmith’s classic novel, “The Price of Salt,” which was directed by Todd Haynes.

For Mrs. Harris, Nagy garnered Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Writing for her work on the HBO film starring Annette Bening and Ben Kingsley, which received a total of 12 Emmy nominations.

Upcoming projects for Nagy include directing her script, No Where, inspired by the Lena Mauger and Stephane Remael’s non-fiction book about the “johatsu,” disenfranchised Japanese who mysteriously disappear every year; as well directing her adaptation of THE LUNEBURG VARIATION, based on Paolo Maurensig’s World War II revenge thriller. Nagy is repped by UTA and Casarotto Ramsay & Associates.

KEVIN McKEON (Producer) is the Vice President of Production at Mattel Films shepherding feature projects through development and production based on the company’s storied collection of intellectual properties including Barbie with Warner Bros.

HAYLEY SCHORE and ROSHAN SETHI (Screenwriters) co-created The Resident on FOX, now in its 4th season. They were tapped by Universal/Working Title to write The Infinity of Hope — the true story of a young Black man who rose from the projects of New Orleans to become one of NASA’s top astrophysicists. They also wrote The Spoils — a socially-conscious heist movie for director/producer Malcolm Lee and Lionsgate. They had two scripts on the Blacklist, including Call Jane, and currently have several feature films in development — including The Secret of Life — the story of Rosalind Franklin whose groundbreaking work on DNA was stolen by two young men who went on to win the Nobel Prize, and JIMMY — the story of Sidney Farber, the man who invented chemotherapy at a time when there was no hope for kids with cancer and changed the course of medicine. They are also developing a limited series on the life of astronaut Sally Ride for Sony/USA.