Michelle Williams is set to star in and produce the timely biopic.
Women’s battle for reproductive rights began long before Roe v. Wade. The history of this battle is often poorly understood, and the activism that led up to the pivotal 1973 Supreme Court decision is often unappreciated. Luckily, the upcoming biopic This Is Jane will shed some light on a crucial act of resistance that preceded the legalization of abortion.
According to Deadline, Michelle Williams is set to star in and produce Amazon Studios’ This Is Jane. Based on Laura Kaplan’s book “The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service,” the biopic will tell the true story of the Chicago woman who founded and ran the Jane Collective, also known as Jane.
In the ’60s and ’70s, Jane functioned as an underground reproductive health network, providing women access to safe abortions while they were outlawed at medical establishments. In addition, the Chicago-based collective offered health education, counseling, and support for women in need of care. Kaplan based “The Story of Jane” on her own experience as a member of Jane, having joined as a counselor in 1971.
Jane was comprised of a group of women who taught themselves to perform abortions. Circumventing federal law, the women of Jane provided safe abortions for over 11,000 women from 1968 to 1973. Despite the potential consequences, this network of feminists risked everything to provide women with health care and resist government policy.
The story of Jane is glaringly timely. Though Roe v. Wade remains federal law, restrictions on health care and reproductive rights remain a threat to women across the country. Just as The Handmaid’s Tale is a stark imagining of our future, This Is Jane will be an important portrait of our national past — one that is quickly being forgotten. Both projects are cautionary tales, reminders of the dangerous consequences that follow the restriction of reproductive rights. The Jane network is a stunning example of power and resistance, but it is also a reality that we should never have to return to.
This Is Jane is part of a larger wave of upcoming films and series that are helmed by and focus on women. The last few weeks have been brimming with announcements about radical, women-led projects, from Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut to the New York Times’ redemptive anthology to Elizabeth Moss’ Shirley Jackson thriller. More projects are assembling all-female casts (Ocean’s 8, 355), all-female directing slates (The Spanish Princess, Queen Sugar, Jessica Jones), and all-female writers rooms (Harlots, Anne With an E, Chewing Gum).
And with more women behind the scenes, the stories being told are more revolutionary. This Is Jane frames abortion in a historical light and revolutionary context. It follows several other films that have brought women’s issues to the foreground, especially in the wake of Me Too. From The Tale to RBG to Eighth Grade, there is certainly a groundswell of films that are tackling the many facets of women’s lived experiences. This Is Jane is next.
Williams will play the woman who founded the Jane Collective, known simply as “Jenny.” This is a much-deserved lead role for Williams, who has been relegated to roles unworthy of her talent this year (see: The Greatest Showman, I Feel Pretty, Venom). And that’s not the only way she’s been under-appreciated.
Earlier this year, Williams also found herself in the middle of controversy when it was revealed she earned less than 1% of All the Money in the World co-star Mark Wahlberg’s salary for the film’s reshoots (he was paid 1.5 million dollars; she was paid less than a thousand). After public pressure, Wahlberg donated his earnings to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund in Williams’ name — an impactful gesture, but a band-aid on a more insidiously systemic problem.
Kimberly Peirce is set to direct. Peirce is best known for Boys Don’t Cry (which she also wrote) and 2013’s Carrie, but she also has an impressive collection of television credits, including Dear White People, I Love Dick, and Halt and Catch Fire.
With Peirce at the helm, Williams as the star, and Kaplan’s source material leading the way, This Is Jane promises to be an excellent and enlightening addition to the post Me Too era of film.