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Elizabeth Banks - “Call Jane” & Destigmatizing Abortion

October 29, 2022

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Actor Elizabeth Banks discusses her film “Call Jane” about The Jane Collective of Chicago, which provided abortion health care pre-Roe v. Wade, the dangers and desperate situations people find themselves in when they don’t want to be pregnant, and her goal to destigmatize abortion procedures. 

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Transcript

I'm Mo Raca and I'm back with season 3 of my podcast, Mobituaries.

I've dug up even more stories about the people and things that fascinate me.

From the fruit that once scandalized.

The shape of the banana made it taboo.

To the band that played second banana to the Beatles.

They were lucky to come in second.

And the truth is they only came in second for about two months.

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Hi, you're on such an ex-audience.

Elizabeth, they're a wonderful audience.

Welcome to The Daily Show.

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

And congratulations on creating what I think everyone is going to enjoy as not just a heartfelt film, but a film that in more ways than most, feels completely apt for these times.

My character, Joy, seeks out an abortion when her life is in danger, and it's life or death for her.

And this is a woman who never thought she'd seek out abortion care.

And when she gets there, it's in 1968, Chicago, abortion is illegal, this is pre-Roe versus Wade.

And she meets a collective of women called the Janes.

These are real life women.

So the story's based on a real life group, a Jane collective of Chicago who provided abortion care, abortion healthcare to nearly 11,000 women in the late 60s before abortion was legal in Illinois and Chicago.

It's a story about bravery in the face of everything that stands against you, because in the story, we meet a woman who's living like a cookie cutter life.

Your character's just like, she's living her life.

She comes from a conservative family, but we don't really talk about that.

And it's almost not about the politics per se, but it's about how society was oppressing women at this time.

And what feels, again, pertinent to this moment is seeing her not just fight for herself, but for every other woman who needs to have an abortion and can't afford it.

Yeah, that's exactly right.

You know, I'm pro-abortion, and I like to tell people who aren't pro-abortion that I'm fighting for them to have that abortion that they don't know they need yet.

Wow.

Yeah.

Right?

Don't worry, I'll fight for you.

I'll fight for you.

I'll fight for your daughter and your wife and your mom.

Don't worry.

It really is a powerful story, though, because you know, this is what gets me about the film is, you think, first of all, you would think this film was made now.

That's the first thing.

You started planning this and you filmed this how long ago?

Well, I first read the script nearly three years ago.

Right.

And you know, we had the pandemic and we finally got to make it, get Sigourney Weaver into be this amazing activist.

Sigourney's Tumana, yeah.

Sigourney Weaver.

And you know, I think at the time, we knew that there were what we call abortion deserts in America, which are areas where abortion was so inaccessible that basically people were living in a time that was like pre-row.

And this film really presents the dangerous, often desperate situations that pregnant people found themselves in when they didn't want to be pregnant.

And you know, we all know that abortion bans don't, you know, they don't solve abortion because as long as there have been pregnant people, there will be people that don't want to be pregnant.

And this film reminds us that their safety matters, right?

That we can recenter women and the healthcare that they need and make sure that it's safe for them.

And safety relies on legality, frankly.

And that's sort of the time that we are now talking about.

It was 1968 in the movie, but it's today in 14 states.

It also showed a side of the conversation that is necessary, but painful at the same time.

You know, the film isn't flippant when it comes to talking about abortion.

You know, there's the scene, for instance, where we're in the room, we're seeing a lot of what the procedure is, we're seeing the pain, we're seeing what the woman goes through.

And I wanted to know why you felt it was so important to have that in the story.

Some would gloss over it, some would say, oh, no, no, we don't want to put that in because it makes it complicated, but it felt like it was kept in for that reason.

You know, one in four American women have an abortion.

So it's a pretty common practice.

And there's this mythology, there's this lie, frankly, that anti-abortion activists will say, which is that abortion can kill you.

And that is simply not true.

Abortion is very, very, it's safer than getting your wisdom teeth out, it's safer than a colonoscopy.

So the Jains didn't lose a single life.

They performed 11,000 abortions, didn't lose a single life.

And so I think partly why we wanted to put the procedure in was just to normalize it, you know, just to de-stigmatize the entire process and to show you that she was fine after and went and had spaghetti.

Right.

It's just like, it's a procedure that somebody is having to have autonomy over their lives.

You also choose to have many funny moments in the film, which somebody wouldn't think at first, you know, if I said to you, oh, there's this film and it's about abortion, it's about people go like, oh, wow, this is going to be a very serious film.

And it is serious, but there are so many moments where you find yourself like laughing out loud as well.

Like really, really laughing out loud in a human way.

You know, that also feels very intentional.

Why not just have it be very drab and dull?

I think we all felt like the way to de-politicize this whole thing, which has become so politicized, is to remind people about the stories, right?

It's these are real people's lives that these politicians are messing with.

You know, these are real women who have hopes and dreams or already have kids for whatever reason are making the decision to seek out abortion healthcare.

And regular real women, they have fun too, you know, they laugh too.

I love that.

Like, the humans, they're interesting.

We're all humans.

You know, I also, my rule about this character was, I just said I don't want to cry after, because she's so relieved after her abortion, she chooses her life.

She's a very life-affirming decision for her.

She's not particularly tortured over it.

She's already a mom and her pregnancy is threatening her life and she wants to stay alive to be a mom to her daughter.

And because she suddenly realizes when she's faced with life or death, wow, I have so much more life to live.

I have so many things to do.

Shit, I got a list I got to get through, you know?

And she's really has a real awakening, a political awakening, an emotional awakening.

And I love that for the character.

I mean, total right turn in her life.

Right, right, right.

It's a change in direction, because it's a moment where, you know, we don't want to spoil it for everyone, but it's just that key moment where somebody realizes their life is at risk, they need to have this procedure, and then they have to fight to basically save their own life.

It's a powerful one.

I feel like you're one of the more perfect people to tell this story.

No, because of what you represent, you know, you've been a champion of women in all fields, whether it's business, whether it's film, you know, people have come up to you and they've gone like, you know, you create some of the funniest films for women to act in.

You're funny behind the camera.

You're funny when it comes to the writing.

And what I loved is something that you said recently, which was everyone will say to you, or many people will say, oh, it's powerful that you're doing this, because you're doing this to show that women can do it, and you make films for the women.

You said something to the effect of, well, I make films because I like making films, and I am a woman, and I'm having fun.

What do you think people miss sometimes about a woman doing any type of job that they just want to do?

You know, well, do we have three hours?

I mean, that's like a deep question.

You know, I think...

There's a lot...

We live...

Ro, for me, I'll speak to it in terms of the film right now, which was when Dobbs...

The Dobbs decision is a decision that overturned Ro V Way that came down this summer.

When it happened, I felt foundationally, like, less of a free person than I did the day before.

And so when you live in a society where your human rights can be taken away from you, you're kind of a second-class citizen.

And when you're considered a second-class citizen, everybody thinks, how does a second-class citizen get to direct a Hollywood movie?

Wow.

Like, it's that deep.

Right, right.

It's like it's the way it's that...

There are people that are entitled to do things, and then there are women who have to fight to do things.

Right, almost. You're lucky.

It's like, how did you do it?

You're lucky if you get to do it.

Well, you're not lucky. You're amazing.

You truly one of the funniest people I know, and the film is amazing.

Thank you so much for joining me again.

I appreciate you.

Thank you so much for being here.

Hollywood, thanks, everybody.

Make sure to check out the film.

It's gonna be in theaters everywhere you watch movies.

I'm Moraka, and I'm back with season three of my podcast, Mobituaries.

I've dug up even more stories about the people and things that fascinate me.

From the fruit that once scandalized...

The shape of the banana made it taboo.

...to the band that played second banana to the Beatles.

They were lucky to come in second, and the truth is they only came in second for about two months.

Listen to Mobituaries on the iHeart Radio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.