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At Chicago Abortion Rights Rally, More Than 1,000 People Turn ‘Anger Into Action’ — And Vow To Keep Fighting For Choice

The Chicago Abortion Fund has seen demand skyrocket in recent years as nearby states severely restrict abortion access. Now, groups in Illinois are preparing for an even bigger influx.

Thousands gathered Saturday at Union Park to protest the potential end of Roe v. Wade.
Izzy Stroobandt/Block Club Chicago
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UNION PARK — Thousands flooded Union Park Saturday morning to rally for abortion rights at an event organized by Planned Parenthood Illinois. 

The rally came in the wake of a leaked Supreme Court draft that shows the court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, which has guaranteed the right to safe abortions since 1973, according to Politico. That ruling isn’t final until the opinion is public, which is likely to happen in the next two months, according to Politico.

Jacqueline Ayers, senior vice president of policy, organizing and campaigns for Planned Parenthood National, said at the rally the leaked Supreme Court draft “confirmed [their] worst fears.” 

“It was a gut punch,” Ayers said. “I was very shocked, and then angry.” 

“What all of you are doing right now is turning our rage and anger into action,” Ayers said to the massive crowd. “We have never lost a constitutional right before. This Supreme Court is looking to turn back our rights and access and this is everybody’s fight.” 

Many of the states around Illinois are expected to quickly ban or heavily restrict abortion access if Roe is overturned, which could lead to Illinois providers seeing an influx of patients from out of state. 

Credit: Izzy Stroobandt/Block Club Chicago
Speakers from Planned Parenthood and other organizations talked at a Saturday rally where people protested the potential end of Roe v. Wade.

Already, state clinics are helping people from areas like Missouri and Kentucky, which already had strict abortion restrictions in place.

Dr. Allison Cowett, medical director at Family Planning Associates Medical Group, also spoke at the rally, which began in the park at 1501 W. Randolph St. and ended in The Loop.

“I am a full-time abortion doctor,” Cowett said. “On behalf of the 46,000 people who have abortions in Illinois each year, and the 20,000 to 30,000 more expected to travel to Illinois for abortions in a post-Roe America, I thank you for being here and for supporting this basic human right.”

“The anti-abortion movement — from the protesters outside our clinics to the partisan conservatives on the Supreme Court — could not be more out of touch with our patients’ lives,” Cowett said. “People’s lives are complex, and abortion is a lifeline. It saves lives and makes futures possible.”

Eileen Soderstrom came to the rally in her bright pink “abortion clinic escort” vest. Soderstrom began volunteering as an abortion clinic escort at smaller, private clinics in 2013, two years after she retired. 

She said the escorts go through training to prepare them for the job and she was afraid after the first session — but “I decided — do it” anyway, she said. 

Saturdays tend to be the worst, she said, when she helps patients pass groups of “foul young men” and “old people who set up lounge chairs and bring the rosary.” 

After working as an abortion clinic escort for nearly a decade, Soderstrom said the current situation is “beyond belief.”

Credit: Izzy Stroobandt/Block Club Chicago
Thousands gathered Saturday at Union Park to protest the potential end of Roe v. Wade.

Brittany Mostiller works with the National Network of Abortion Funds but spoke as a We Testify Storyteller at the rally. 

“I am here because I have had abortions — with a ‘S’,” she said. “And I believe that all people deserve access to the care that they need and the care that they want. Period.” 

“Whether they are choosing to terminate so they can finish school, if they simply don’t feel ready, or if they have no desire to be a parent at all,” she said. “Or, in my case, choosing to put themselves and the lives of their children first.” 

“I did not want to carry my pregnancy to term — being a young mother of three was stressful as hell,” she said. “Nurturing and loving my children while not knowing how to give those things to myself — it was just too much. I knew having an abortion was the best thing for all of us in that moment, and one of the best decisions I have ever made.”  

“I am deeply grateful for the support I received from the Chicago Abortion Fund,” she said. 

The number of abortion seekers that Chicago Abortion Fund is able to support has grown exponentially in the past three years. 

In 2019, the Chicago Abortion Fund supported roughly 800 people, compared to roughly 3,000 people in 2021, according to the fund’s deputy director, Qudsiyyah Sharyif. Of the people they helped in 2021, 77 percent came from out-of-state. 

This year, the Chicago Abortion Fund has already helped more than 2,000 people get an abortion, Sharyif said at the rally.

Those who showed up to similar rallies across the country this weekend made it clear — abortion rights supporters won’t back down.

“We are the ones who are going to get ourselves back into the constitution,” Ayers said. “We are going to demand more than what we had with Roe.”

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