More than a thousand people gathered at Federal Plaza Friday evening holding signs declaring “Forced Motherhood = Female Enslavement” and “Overturn Roe? Hell No!”
Dr. Amy Whitaker, the Chief Medical Officer of Planned Parenthood of Illinois and an abortion provider, said the Supreme Court’s decision overturning its landmark Roe v. Wade decision has set the stage for abortion access to be banned in over half the United States.
The decisions, Whitaker said, has “set back the clock on a generation of women.”
Whitaker said this will gravely impact those with little resources — specifically hurting those facing economic barriers.
It is expected that with the court’s decision, all states bordering Illinois will end or severely restrict access to abortion, Whitaker said, which will only put those in need of an abortion at risk.
Nearly a dozen speakers reiterated the urgency to act now. It is time, they said, to hit the streets and protest.
“We will not go back, not here, not in Illinois,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker told the crowd. “To the right-wing office holders who are cheering the Supreme Court ruling, get your boot off of women!”
Pritzker warned the ruling will lead to the death of women in abusive relationships, and the death of people undergoing “back-alley abortions.” He warned conservative leaders that they were coming for their seats.
“We cannot stand by and let women be treated like second-class citizens,” Pritzker said.
Several other elected leaders joined the rally, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Illinois House Speaker Chris Welch and Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi.
“I am less free today than I was yesterday,” said Chakena Perry, a commissioner with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.
Perry said even though Illinois has protections in place, it is imperative that come Tuesday, people cast their ballots for candidates up and down the ballot who will continue to support abortion rights.
“Do not allow them to take what we worked so hard to build,” Perry said.
Protesters then marched north from the plaza, filling Dearborn Street. The crowd stretched for blocks, their chants echoing off downtown buildings.
They went east on Washington Street, then south on State Street.
“I do this for my granddaughter, I don’t want her to have to go through this,” said Mercedes, who did not want to give her last name.
Carol Friedman and Lina Cramer said they remember when Roe was enacted and are now devastated to think their daughters and granddaughters will have less freedoms than they had growing up.
“We’re disgusted and we’re angry and we’re sad,” Cramer said.
Matt Mershon attended the march with his husband, Jared Williams. He held a sign that read “Hands off our marriage.”
“Were just out here because abortion, it’s about women’s health care, it’s about access to health care and a man has no right to say what a woman does or doesn’t do with her body,” Williams said.
“And In regards to what Clarence Thomas said, I pay taxes just like a heterosexual couple does, so why am I being treated like a second class American?”
He was referring to statements by the Supreme Court justice that past rulings on gay rights should be reconsidered in light of Friday’s decision.
The couple has been married for three years and were frightened by the idea the court “could invalidate that” next.
When they arrived at the Ida B. Wells Drive and Dearborn Street, the protesters took a knee and held a moment of silence for the people who died during an illegal abortion.
“I am here with you, again, fighting for my uterus and I am not OK,” said Crystal Gardner, a union organizer and activist. “But we won’t get weary. What we will do is, we will radicalize and organize because this is only the beginning of yet another fight for the many.”
Those other fights in the not-too-distant future, Gardner said, will be to preserve the right to privacy, voting rights, universal child care and workers rights. She said she challenged all allies of abortion rights to stand up and let it be known widely.
“It is Roe v. Wade today and it can easily be Brown v. Board of Education tomorrow,” Gardner said at the rally. “They are coming for each one of us.”