Dozens of pro-choice Chicago activists assembled at Daley Plaza Monday evening to show their solidarity with Texas women who will be impacted by a restrictive abortion measure the state’s Republican-controlled legislature passed Friday.
The fight for women’s reproductive freedom in Illinois is also far from over, the protestors stressed. Last week, Illinois’ Supreme Court deemed a controversial 1995 state law constitutional. The law requires doctors to notify a parent before those under the age of 18 can get an abortion. The law, which has never been implemented, will start being enforced August 15.
“I know I am not alone in feeling extremely dispirited after the weekend ... a weekend in which we were told that [as] women our voices don’t matter, our needs don’t matter in the discussion about our own lives and about what kind of health care we can access,” Corinne Westing, a Chicago registered nurse and newly-certified nurse midwife, told the more than 50 protestors.
Late Friday evening, the Texas Senate approved a measure by a 19-11 vote that would ban abortions after 20 weeks and effectively eliminate nearly all of the state's clinics that perform them, abortion rights proponents say. Under the bill, all abortions would have to be performed in surgical centers. The legislation is awaiting action from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has said he will sign the bill.
Some 2,000 protestors opposed to the anti-abortion bill flooded Texas’ Capitol building on Friday. The bill also sparked outcry on social media and demonstrations across the country leading up to the Senate’s vote and over the weekend.
Women’s lives will be in danger if most of Texas’ clinics shut their doors, Chicago activists say. Those seeking an abortion would have to trek hundreds of miles to the nearest facility, Westing added.
“If you’ve ever needed an abortion, you know that you will do almost anything to end your pregnancy, and that is why prior to Roe vs. Wade tens of thousands of women, predominately black women and immigrant women, died from illegal abortion,” she said.
Also, women learning of a new pregnancy would have fewer places to turn for critical services that are tied with abortion care, including domestic violence screenings and primary care referrals for problems like high blood pressure or ovarian cysts, Westing explained. Access to family planning care post abortion would also be reduced, she said.
The bill will ultimately drive women into “secrecy and shame,” when before, they could receive compassionate, non-judgmental care at an abortion provider’s office in their communities, Westing said.
What’s happening in Texas is part of a larger attack on women’s reproductive health, the protestors noted. North Carolina’s House, for example, also passed a controversial abortion measure last Thursday, which was attached to a bill involving motorcycle safety. Under this proposal, the state’s clinics that perform abortions could see new regulations, and government-administered insurance plans would not be allowed to cover the procedure in most cases.
“It’s just a sad bigger picture, and I think that’s why we all feel Texas' pain, because we know that since Roe has been decided, those rights have been chipped away,” said Benita Ulisano, co-chair of the Illinois Choice Action Team. “Roe doesn’t mean much to women who have no access to a clinic to go get a safe and legal abortion.”
Ashley Bohrer, an activist with SlutWalk Chicago, a group that works to push back against the culture of victim blaming associated with sexual assault, delivered a fiery speech at the rally.
In addition to the Texas measure, Bohrer brought to light other recent political attacks on women and various minority groups across the country and in Chicago, including the recent closing of neighborhood schools and six city mental health clinics last year.
Here’s more of what Bohrer had to say:
Ulisano said the Illinois Reproductive Health and Access Coalition, made up of various pro-choice groups and other organizations, plan to meet Tuesday to discuss its next steps following Thursday’s state Supreme Court ruling.
Westing added that now is not the time for activists to feel beaten down but, instead, they should ramp up their organizing efforts.
“It means raising our expectations again as we raise our fists in solidarity,” Westing said. “It means we need to heed the call, not to mourn the loss of our rights, but to organize for them.”
Check back with Progress Illinois for a full report on the Illinois Supreme Court ruling on the 1995 state law on parental notification for abortions.