A year after Roe v. Wade was overturned, Illinois is fighting hard to protect abortion rights

The numbers of Americans supporting abortion rights since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision are encouraging. But the fight is far from over to safeguard women’s right to make their own decisions about pregnancy.

SHARE A year after Roe v. Wade was overturned, Illinois is fighting hard to protect abortion rights
(FILES) Demonstrators rally in support of abortion rights at the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on April 15, 2023. On June 24, 2022, a court reshaped by Republican President Donald Trump overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion and left it up to each state to decide. (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Demonstrators rally in support of abortion rights at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on April 15.

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More Americans than ever are backing abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, 1973’s landmark decision that for five decades allowed women to make their own decisions about their pregnancies.

One in four people in a recent USA TODAY/Suffolk University survey said state efforts to restrict abortion access, following last year’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, made them more supportive of abortion rights.

Similarly, a Gallup poll found that a record 69% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in the first three months of pregnancy. That’s up slightly from 67% a month before the Supreme Court snatched away the constitutional right a year ago, on June 24, 2022.

The numbers are encouraging, showing broad support for abortion rights despite the court’s conservative tilt and disconnect with public opinion. But meanwhile, the fight to safeguard women seeking abortions in states like Illinois — where Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed sweeping legislation to maintain the state’s status as “an island of reproductive justice” — is far from over.

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Nationally, “we are just one election away from it all going away,” as Sarah Garza Resnick, the president & CEO of Personal PAC, told us last week.

Taking aim at local government

On a smaller scale, abortion rights are under attack in municipalities across the country, where far right anti-abortion activists are seeking to influence local city councils and target clinics in states where abortion remains legal. Their viewpoint is in the minority, but it’s a loud and dangerous minority.

In 2022, there were more arsons, burglaries, death threats and invasions against providers and clinics nationwide, according to the National Abortion Federation. There was also a “sharp increase” in such violence and disruption in states that are going the extra mile to keep abortions legal, NAF’s latest report revealed.

That includes Illinois, where anti-abortion protesters posed as patients to disrupt the Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City this past spring. In January, a Planned Parenthood facility in Peoria was firebombed. And in May, a senior citizen who was previously arrested for trespassing at the Peoria clinic allegedly drove his car into an abortion facility in east central Danville that has yet to open. Two weeks later, “an intruder” tore down some of the temporary repairs and may have tried to enter the building, the owner of the Danville property said.

These attacks took place just weeks after the Danville City Council passed an ordinance banning the mailing or shipping of abortion pills.

Neither the property damage nor the passing of such legislation — which Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and the American Civil Liberties Union pointed out violates state law — were coincidences.

The seeds of anti-abortion fervor were further buttressed in Danville by a pair of Texans: millennial pastor Mark Lee Dickson and Jonathan Mitchell, the former solicitor general of the Lone Star State. Dickson has his eyes set on Collinsville and Quincy next, Garza Resnick said.

As Michele Landau, CEO of Hope Clinic for Women, put it, “Anti-abortion extremists are completely emboldened by the Dobbs decision and they are increasingly focused on clinics in states with protective measures like Illinois.”

Raoul has assured the public that Danville’s “symbolic” ordinance “is not in effect and will not take effect.” Illinois’ Reproductive Health Act forbids local government from limiting abortion rights.

Patients from across the nation

Women who are seeking abortions in Illinois surely feel apprehensive at the sometimes-violent drive to keep them from accessing abortion care. And the women affected come from far and wide. The number of patients seeking abortions from Planned Parenthood of Illinois has increased 54% since Roe was overturned, and the organization has built centers near the Indiana and Wisconsin borders to accommodate the surge.

Women from 23 states have been to the Hope Clinic for Women in the past year, Landau said.

Even women in states where abortion is legal, like Indiana, or women who live in states next door to those where the procedure is legal, still opt to come to Illinois because it is easier to travel to Chicago and it can be easier to book an appointment here, as Megan Jeyifo, executive director of the Chicago Abortion Fund, told us.

Abortion has been completely banned in 13 states, and has been severely restricted in others, including in neighboring Wisconsin, where “ongoing legal complexities” have rendered abortions unavailable, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

In Illinois, abortion rights organizations and lawmakers say they are committed to ensuring the state remains a refuge.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, who chairs the House Dobbs Working Group, said the group is studying additional data privacy matters to protect women. The Legislature recently approved a bill that protects women traveling here for an abortion from having data from automated license plate readers used against them by anti-abortion states.

Illinois must continue to stay two steps ahead of those looking for ways to further strip away women’s right to make decisions about their own bodies.

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