Chicagoans rally across the city for abortion rights: ‘Everything else is up for grabs’

Demonstrations took place at Union Park, Millennium Park and in the Beverly neighborhood, as part of the national “Bans Off Our Bodies Day of Action.”

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Abortion-rights advocates march along West Wacker Drive in the Loop during Rally for Abortion Justice, which is part of the Bans off Our Body nationwide day of action, Saturday morning, May 14, 2022.

Abortion-rights advocates march along West Wacker Drive in the Loop during Rally for Abortion Justice, which is part of the Bans off Our Body nationwide day of action, Saturday morning, May 14, 2022.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Nine-year-old Mia Dreyfuss wants to make her own decisions.

“I don’t want people telling us what to do,” she said while standing with her mom and twin sister, Sophie, at a rally supporting the right to abortion in Union Park Saturday morning.

“They wanted to be here and I’m so proud of them for that,” Lori Dreyfuss said of her daughters.

The Near West Side protest, part of the national “Bans Off Our Bodies Day of Action” organized by Planned Parenthood and other groups that support abortion rights, drew several thousand demonstrators carrying signs and chanting and cheering.

It marked the city’s latest rally in response to the leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft decision indicating justices will soon overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that has protected abortion rights nationally for nearly five decades.

Some protesters, like retired marketer Sue Brady, said they fear other potential rollbacks in the wake of Roe’s looming reversal.

“This is just the beginning,” said Brady, 61. “Everything else is up for grabs.”

The Mount Prospect resident carried a sign that read “Next up: No birth control, no same sex marriage, no mixed race marriage, no Brown vs. Board of Education.”

“Maybe this will be the rallying cry… a wake up call,” she said.

Abortion rights activists rally Saturday morning at Union Park.

Abortion rights activists rally Saturday morning at Union Park.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The “Bans Off Our Bodies” demonstration was one of several across Chicago Saturday, marking the second week of mass protests in the city. A demonstration at Millennium Park Saturday organized by the group Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights drew several hundred activists, including Val Lunsford of Austin.

Lunsford, who is nonbinary, had an abortion more than a decade ago.

“I was in an emotionally abusive relationship that I was already trying to end,” they said. “I knew that I could not tie myself to that person for the rest of my life.”

Lunsford, who protested at both Millennium Park and Union Park, carried a sign that read, “I had an abortion and I’m queer. My body, my choice, zero regret here.” The other side declared: “Everyone loves someone who had an abortion.”

An abortion rights advocate holds a sign that reads, “Never again” during Rally for Abortion Justice, which is part of the Bans off Our Body nationwide day of action, at Union Park in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, Saturday morning, May 14, 2022.

An abortion rights advocate holds a sign that reads, “Never again” during Rally for Abortion Justice, which is part of the Bans off Our Body nationwide day of action, at Union Park in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, Saturday morning, May 14, 2022.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A small group of anti-abortion demonstrators stood outside the downtown protest with signs that read, “Infanticide: America’s Holocaust,” and, “Jesus saves from hell.” A few verbal confrontations took place between organizers on either side of the issue.

Some anti-abortion organizers offer adoption as an alternative to abortion in the event of an unwanted pregnancy. Critics say that puts pregnant people through unnecessary physical, mental and financial stress.

“I was adopted from Paraguay, and my parents adopted me after having difficulties having their own children,” said Roxanne Meyer, a demonstrator from East Lake View. “If people want to adopt, they should. But not everybody has the luxury of being able to afford full-term pregnancy. Sometimes giving up for adoption is not even an option for them.”

Abortion rights activists rally Saturday morning at Union Park.

Abortion rights activists rally Saturday morning at Union Park.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The leaked draft was made public almost two weeks ago, but it’s left some people struggling to comprehend what’s at stake. Tessa Anderson, a 35-year-old software engineer from Hyde Park, said she “never would have thought” she’d see Roe overturned.

“I’m still processing, I can’t find the words,” she said.

The Union Park rally drew speakers including elected officials Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who called on people to donate to abortion funds and support candidates that will protect abortion rights in local, state and federal elections.

“More and more people are needing support to get to care,” said Qudsayyiah Sharyif of the Chicago Abortion Fund. “We need your investment in abortion funds and we need your pledge to protect pregnant people.”

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot have affirmed the state and city will remain a “beacon” for people from neighboring states seeking abortions even if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Illinois codified the right to an abortion with a state law in 2019.

Abortion rights activists rally Saturday morning at Union Park.

Abortion rights activists rally Saturday morning at Union Park.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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