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Texas ban renews activism for abortion rights at Chicago rally, with a new generation ‘coming to the fight’

The downtown rally and subsequent march was part of “Defend Abortion Access,” a network of protests happening across the nation, in the wake of the most restrictive anti-abortion law yet that went into effect in Texas last month. 

Thousands of protesters — mainly women — flocked to Daley Plaza Saturday to advocate for women’s reproductive rights and decry Texas’s recent ban on most abortions. 
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Thousands of protesters — mainly women — flocked to Daley Plaza Saturday to advocate for women’s reproductive rights and to decry Texas’ new ban on most abortions.

People from all over the Chicago area attended the downtown rally, many with handmade signs, including some that read: “We are not ovary-acting,” and “Protect our girls.”

Camryn Peterson, 23, came to the protest with friends who’ve supported her since she had an abortion in August.

“I am so grateful and so fortunate that I was able to, and how easy it was for me being in Chicago. But there are a lot of other women in the world who don’t have it as easy... Abortion should be legal, and every woman has a right to their own body and their own choices,” said Peterson, who’s in her last semester at Columbia College.

An abortion advocate responds to pro-life protesters during the “Defend Abortion Access” rally, which was organized by more than 20 organizations to oppose the near ban on abortions in Texas, at Daley Plaza in the Loop.
An abortion advocate responds to pro-life protesters during the “Defend Abortion Access” rally, which was organized by more than 20 organizations to oppose the near ban on abortions in Texas, at Daley Plaza in the Loop.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Nancy Rosenstock, a Peterson Park resident who’s been an abortion rights advocate since the 1970s, said she felt empowered by the large turnout.

“It’s so exciting because you’ve got a whole new generation of young people who are coming to the fight, who have grown up in a world where abortion was available. They never thought twice about it, except that it was probably hard to get it and it was expensive,” Rosenstock said.

Ava Wilson was one of the younger attendees at the rally, asking her parents to take her to the protest a day after her eighth birthday.

Ava proudly donned socks with the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the back while holding a handmade sign reading: “I’m with her.”

Ava, who called herself a feminist, said she aspires to be like Ginsburg when she grows up. “I think my mom wants me to” become a Supreme Court judge, Ava said.

“I want you to be whatever you want to be,” her mother, Erin Wilson, assured.

“I think I will,” Ava said.

Thousands of abortion advocates march in the Loop during the “Defend Abortion Access” rally.
Thousands of abortion advocates march in the Loop during the “Defend Abortion Access” rally.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Following a hefty roster of speakers, demonstrators took to the streets, marching through the Loop and chanting: “My body, my choice,” and “Abortion is health care, health care is a right.”

A small counter-protest formed in the southwest corner of Daley Plaza that led to a few tense interactions, but the sound of the anti-abortionists’ megaphones were mainly drowned out.

The downtown rally and subsequent march were part of “Defend Abortion Access,” a network of protests happening across the nation, coming a month after the most restrictive anti-abortion law yet went into effect in Texas.

The Texas legislation, which bans most abortions after six weeks — before most women know they are pregnant — is thought to be a looming threat to the Roe v. Wade decision that has protected rights since 1973.

Dr. Amy Whitaker, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, speaks during the “Defend Abortion Access” rally.
Dr. Amy Whitaker, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, speaks during the “Defend Abortion Access” rally.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

“Roe should be the floor, not the ceiling, to protect reproductive rights. What is happening in Texas is infuriating, but it is a heartbreaking reality,” said Dr. Amy Whitaker, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of Illinois.

Whitaker urged state legislatures to repeal parental notification of abortion, a law that requires anyone under 18 seeking an abortion in Illinois to notify a designated adult family member.

“We are obligated to make Illinois a safe haven for high quality, legal, compassionate abortion care,” Whitaker said. “We must do this.”