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With Roe V. Wade Overturned, Illinois And Chicago Leaders Mobilize To Protect Abortion Rights

Local officials have pledged that Chicago and Illinois will remain a "haven" where people can access abortions and other forms of reproductive health care.

Thousands of people marched on June 24, 2022 to protest the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, rolling back abortion rights throughout the U.S.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, ending abortion protections and touching off protests around the country, including in Chicago.

It has been known since early May the Supreme Court had voted to overturned Roe v. Wade, but the nation’s highest court did not officially share its decision until Friday morning. About half of states are expected to quickly ban abortions, and experts have said millions of people will soon live in abortion “deserts” where they cannot access care.

Despite the ruling, local officials have pledged Chicago and Illinois will remain a “haven” where people can access abortions and other forms of reproductive health care. The city has also pledged $500,000 to help people.

RELATED: What Roe V. Wade Being Overturned Means For Illinois

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Protesters march on State Street on June 24, 2022 after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Thousands marched Downtown Friday afternoon in rallies and demonstrations organized by Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, and a coalition of local groups including ACLU of Illinois, the Chicago Abortion Fund and Planned Parenthood Illinois Action. Another demonstration is planned for noon Saturday.

RELATED: Chicagoans March By The Thousands After Supreme Court Strikes Down Roe V. Wade: ‘These Are Our Bodies’

Gov. JB Pritzker criticized the court’s decision when news about it leaked in the spring. Pritzker called a special session of the General Assembly on Friday so representatives can take action to further protect reproductive health care. As part of that, lawmakers could consider bills to provide support for people from other states coming to Illinois to receive an abortion, WTTW reported.

“In Illinois, we trust women,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Despite the action of the Supreme Court today overturning Roe v. Wade, the right to safe, accessible reproductive health care is in full force in Illinois – and will remain so.”

RELATED: Chicago’s Abortion Providers Say They Need Long-Term Support To Protect People If Roe V. Wade Gets Overturned

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, speaking at a news conference, said Chicago will continue to fight for a person’s right to choose — and she encourages people in need of care to come to the city for safe abortions and then stay permanently.

“While this feels painful, this is not the end of the fight,” Lightfoot said. “It’s a setback, for sure; but we have to be resolved to fight on because lives are hanging in the balance.”

Lightfoot said she believes the decision will be used to strike down protections for women’s rights, trans rights, immigrant rights and the right for same-sex and interracial marriage.

“Make no mistake about it: This decision today has much wider and much larger implications,” Lightfoot said. “That means we must make sure we’re organized. Let’s talk in practical terms and put a face on who is going to be hurt by this decision. The immediate impact is going to be felt by poor and low-income women, women without access to health care, women of color and women who are just plain scared.

“… We will continue to be an oasis, a beacon, in the surrounding area and across our country to make sure that people who need reproductive healthcare can get it in our city and in our state.”

Credit: Enrique Reyes/Block Club Chicago
Demonstrators at a Downtown rally in support of abortion rights May 7, 2022.

‘I’m Pissed. I Don’t Want To Sugarcoat It’

Rep. Bobby Rush, a Democrat representing portions of Chicago, criticized the decision in a statement Friday.

“… The U.S. Supreme Court has turned back the clock on women’s rights by denying them autonomy over their own bodies,” Rush said. “This decision currently hurts poor, rural and disadvantaged women in conservative states the most, but it has the potential to affect every woman in this country as it opens the door for a future GOP-controlled Congress to pass a national ban.”

The American Civil Liberties Union’s Illinois branch has also vowed to protect abortion care in Illinois. In a Friday statement, Ameri Klafeta, the organization’s director of the Women’s and Reproductive Rights Project, slammed the decision as “reckless.”

“People in nearly half of the states across the country are likely to lose the right to make fundamental decisions over their own body very soon,” Klafeta said in a statement. “This is cruel and will disproportionately impact people of color and those economically disadvantaged.

“Abortion remains safe and legal in Illinois — that message needs to be heard all across the state. Clinics that provide abortion in this state will remain open and patients can make appointments.”

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

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Protesters in Federal Plaza after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

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

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

Because of those laws, Illinois health clinics will likely face an even greater influx of patients and could see themselves stretched thin, experts have said. Planned Parenthood Illinois could see double to five times as many out-of-state patients coming to Illinois for abortion care, its president has said.

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

“We need Illinois and other states to join in making sure that there’s capacity for the folks that are going to be traveling into our state to get care,” Qudsiyyah Shariyf, leader of the Chicago Abortion Fund, said at a news conference. “It’s no longer a hypothetical. You know, we’re here. This is reality, and now it’s time to make the right to abortion accessible and expand it, expand it for folks that need care, expanding the pool of healthcare professionals that can provide that care.”

Shariyf said people should be able to get care within their communities and shouldn’t have to travel hundreds or thousands for it. People should not face any barriers — be they financial, logistical, distance-related or due to criminalization or political interference — for getting their care, she said.

“We’re calling on people in this moment to mobilize, to take their rage and fear and hurt, and not push it to the side, but channel it to sustainable ways that you can enter the movement in ways that make sense for you,” Shariyf said.

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

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx speaks as the Black Caucus endorses her on March 12.

In a video posted to Twitter, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said she was able to have an abortion for an “unplanned and unwanted” pregnancy when she was 22 years old, just one month before her college graduation, thanks to Roe v. Wade.

But Foxx said her mother “didn’t have that right,” and she drank turpentine to terminate her pregnancy. Foxx told Block Club her mother also had someone push her down the stairs.

Foxx said she’s worried that will be the reality again for many Americans with the law overturned.

“I’m pissed. I don’t want to sugarcoat it,” she told Block Club. “Part of what’s really frustrating about this is those who have worked on these issues — we could foresee this coming. It was a long, slow horror movie, where you were seeing the call in the house, but people didn’t believe it.

“The fact that we’re at a place in 2022, in the most developed nation in the world, where women are being denied the right to decide what to do with their bodies — that makes me mad, and I don’t have an eloquent way to say it. I’m pissed.”

As top prosecutor, Foxx said she’s committed to protecting abortion rights in Illinois and helping people from other states access medical care in the state.

Foxx said she’s part of a national coalition of prosecutors who have vowed not to prosecute abortion providers, and she plans to advocate for abortion rights and to fight against the criminalization of abortion, which disproportionately impacts people of color and low-income people.

“History has shown us, particularly when it comes to Black women and their reproductive health, they’re impacted negatively. This will only exacerbate that,” she said.

Foxx said she and her two teenage daughters are now faced with the choosing colleges based on which states have abortion protections.

“I didn’t think about my access and my rights — it was a given — and what I’m most heartbroken about now is for my children, it’s not,” she said.

People gather in Federal Plaza on June 24, 2022 to protest the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, rolling back abortion rights throughout the U.S.

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