Chicago protesters flood downtown in support of abortion rights with Roe v. Wade in the balance

More than 1,000 demonstrators, including Gov. J.B. Pritzker, gathered in downtown Chicago Saturday to rally for abortion rights.

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Pro-abortion rights activists rally at Federal Plaza on Saturday afternoon.

Pro-abortion rights activists rally at Federal Plaza on Saturday afternoon.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Dr. Sedona Speedy walked along a line of anti-abortion protesters who spoke into a microphone and held signs adorned with flames reading “Jesus saves from hell,” and “Repent: Turn to Jesus or burn.”

She didn’t say anything, but held a sign that read: “I’m a proud abortion provider.”

The Northwestern Memorial Hospital OB-GYN joined upwards of 1,000 other pro-abortion rights demonstrators in downtown Chicago Saturday afternoon, in the wake of a leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft decision indicating the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade — and the rollback of abortion access that would soon follow.

“I’ve seen women who are pregnant literally almost die from being pregnant, and I’ve seen how abortion can be life-saving,” Speedy said. “I’ve also seen women get unsafe abortions and the toll that that takes on them.”

Attendees of the city’s largest rally since the conservative decision surfaced offered different perspectives on their reasons for supporting abortion rights.

Pro-abortion rights activists chant as they march during a pro-abortion rights rally in the Loop, Saturday afternoon, May 7, 2022.

Pro-abortion rights activists chant as they march during a pro-abortion rights rally in the Loop, Saturday afternoon, May 7, 2022.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Some, like School of the Art Institute of Chicago student Aliyah Smith-Nash, said they’ve witnessed abuse and mistreatment in the foster care system.

Others, like 19-year-old Ben Almeida, said they wanted to show that transgender people like himself are threatened by the potential restrictions to abortion access.

Komal Shankar, 20, recalled her mother’s near-death experience due to pregnancy complications.

Actress Genevieve Ven Johnson said she chose not to have children and “really can’t imagine” how different her life would have been if abortion was illegal and access to birth control was restricted when she grew up.

Pro-abortion rights activists rally at Federal Plaza on Saturday afternoon.

Pro-abortion rights activists rally at Federal Plaza on Saturday afternoon.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Speakers including Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton addressed the crowd at Federal Plaza. Abortion rights are protected by Illinois law even if the landmark Roe decision is overturned — but they’re likely to be banned in much of the Midwest.

Pritzker and other state leaders have vowed Illinois will be a “beacon” for people seeking abortions from other states including Indiana, Wisconsin and Missouri.

“Like you, I’m proud that Illinois is an island for reproductive freedom in the Midwest, but our shores remain open for any person who is left marooned by these extremist politicians,” Pritzker said.

Speedy said she’s prepping for more out-of-state patients seeking care in Illinois.

A small group of counter-protesters followed marchers through the streets, calling abortion a sin that should be repented and labeling people who get abortions as “murderers.”

Following the leaked Supreme Court draft, demonstrations across the country have been planned in support of abortion rights. Protests and rallies are scheduled in Chicago throughout the week.

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