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Chicago Will Be A ‘Haven’ For People Who Need Abortion If Roe V. Wade Is Overturned, Lightfoot Says

Illinois has a state law that protects people's right to abortion and other forms of reproductive health care — but much of the Midwest could become a health care desert if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Pro-choice demonstrators Downtown.
Charles Edward Miller / Flickr
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CHICAGO — Chicago will continue to be a “haven” for people in need of abortion and other forms of reproductive health care, even as the Supreme Court is apparently set to strike down Roe v. Wade, Mayor Lori Lightfoot pledged Monday night.

The Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, which has guaranteed basic abortion rights since 1973, according to Politico, which obtained a draft of a majority opinion on the case. That ruling isn’t final until the opinion is public, which is likely to happen in the next two months, according to Politico.

Lightfoot said she’s “sickened and enraged” about the decision, and other local officials said they’re worried.

“We see you and we want you to know that your rights, your circumstances, and your choices matter,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “Chicago will continue to be a haven for those seeking access to the full range of safe reproductive care. We will also continue to fight in Chicago to protect the right to choose and will not stop fighting to protect this right in our surrounding counties and states.”

Illinoisans’ right to reproductive health care is protected by a 2019 state law. But the ruling would still impact Chicago and the rest of the state, as the city’s and state’s clinics would become the closest legal abortion providers for millions of people in the Midwest.

Dozens of states — including several around Illinois — have “trigger laws” that would kick in as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned, making abortion illegal. Many have already put tight restrictions on abortion that have forced people in need of care to come to Illinois.

Because of those laws, Illinois health clinics would likely face an even greater influx of patients and could see themselves stretched thin.

Officials said they’re also concerned that women outside of Illinois would suffer and some would die without being able to access the care they need.

RELATED: Illinois Abortion Providers See Uptick In Out-Of-State Patients As Reproductive Rights Vanish Across The Midwest

Gov. JB Pritzker said regardless of what happens with Roe v. Wade, as long as he is governor, “abortion is safe and legal in Illinois.”

“A decision to overturn Roe v. Wade does not mean that abortions will stop happening,” Pritzker said. “It just means that in half of the states, where their governors and legislators have declared war on reproductive rights, women will be forced into dangerous and sometimes deadly situations.

“And as with everything, the burden will fall disproportionately on the most marginalized women: those who are poor or Black or Brown. They will bear the highest cost of this decision.”

Jennifer Welch, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, said her organization is “furious” about the decision but has prepared for it.

“We will continue to ensure that every patient, no matter where they live, has access to the health care they need and deserve,” Welch said in a statement. “We are proud to say that abortion is still safe and legal in Illinois.

“This is a devastating blow for the millions of people who will suddenly find themselves in an abortion desert; facing a daunting dilemma: travel hundreds of miles to access an abortion, seek an illegal alternative or carry a pregnancy to term against their will. We will continue to fight so that everyone can access the fundamental reproductive health care they need and deserve — no matter what.”

Local officials said they’re also concerned about the everyday impact the decision will have on people’s abilities to make decisions about their bodies and their family planning.

Roe v. Wade “has paved the way for women in need of reproductive care to access safe abortions for decades and, importantly, decide for themselves the circumstances under which they chose to bear children,” Lightfoot said. “If this draft opinion becomes the law of the land, women and their families will suffer, needlessly.

“And make no mistake, this decision will reverse the gains that women have made in the workplace and in every other aspect of their lives since the Court first decided Roe.”

RELATED: How Chicago Women Helped Bring Safe Abortion Access To The Midwest

The decision would go beyond ending a person’s right to access abortion, Lightfoot said, as the rights established with Roe v. Wade have been used to protect people from discrimination based on their sex, sexuality, immigration status, race and more.

“The architects of this destruction will not stop at a woman’s right to choose,” Lightfoot said. “The court’s draft opinion will establish a precedent for gutting the legal underpinnings used to protect against gender-based discrimination overall including women’s rights, trans rights, immigrant rights, and of course, the right to same-sex and interracial marriage.

“This decision truly epitomizes the dangers that exist at the intersection of racism and sexism.”

Pritzker also said the implications for reversing Roe are “terrifying” for people’s health care and for the greater political impact the decision will have.

“It means an end to the constitutional right to privacy,” Pritzker said. “It means women who’ve had a partial miscarriage may now be forced to carry that fetus … .

“This is just the beginning. Next, they’re coming for marriage equality.”

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