Second day of abortion rights protests focus on the future: ‘We must turn our anger into action’
A day after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision, demonstrators gathered in the Loop Saturday with a renewed determination to “help any way we can.”
About 200 people gathered in Federal Plaza Saturday afternoon for a second day of protests over the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision, which set the stage for abortion to be banned in many states.
Dina Ninfo, a lawyer and member of the activist group Chicago for Abortion Rights, which organized the second day of demonstrations, called the decision “extremely dangerous.”
“Typically, when you’ve seen a shift in constitutional rights, it’s to meet the times,” Ninfo said. “This absolute disregard for where our society is, and our beliefs and our values, is shameful.”
Ninfo said the goal for the second day was shifting focus away from the reaction to the decision and to direct action, specifically “resistance”: support work, escorting patients at clinics and “helping any way we can.”
Several speakers took the stage during the gathering, including Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton.
“Yes, I’m angry that a far-right, extremist Supreme Court can turn back the clock on women’s rights, relegating us to second-class citizens,” Stratton said to the crowd. “But today, and every day going forward, we must turn our pain into purpose. We must turn our anger into action, because abortion is healthcare.”
While many demonstrators held signs supporting women’s rights to safe, legal abortions and various iterations of the slogan “hands off our bodies,” Kiersten Crouse, a sex educator and researcher in Chicago, wore her feelings — and experiences — on her chest.
The 24-year-old attended the rally wearing a shirt emblazoned with the message, “My mom had an abortion.”
On the back, the shirt explained that at 18, Crouse miscarried in an emergency room because she wasn’t able to have an abortion. She couldn’t get an appointment.
“If I had access to an abortion, I could’ve been able to process that and choose how that ended,” Crouse said. “And not be forced to feel like a mother losing her child but a woman making a choice about her body.”
Following the rally, protesters marched north from the plaza, on the sidewalk of West Monroe Street until they hit Pride in the Park. The group reversed course and looped around Clark, Washington and Adams Streets, returning to the plaza after a two-mile march.
The group stretched nearly two blocks at its height, with chants of “keep your rosaries off our ovaries” and “stand up fight back” reverberating between buildings. The rain streaked marker-drawn messages on cardboard signs held aloft.
At the end of the march, protesters gathered once again in Federal Plaza and organizers opened the floor to members of the crowd to share their stories.
Jessie Davis — a member of the activist group Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights — shared the story of her then-illegal abortion in 1970 and how it feels to see reproductive rights challenged once again, saying it’s “beyond” what she faced in the 1970s.
“Women don’t want to foreclose their lives,” Davis said. “If we don’t make this a dividing line in society, we will be confronted with far worse attacks coming down after this. … This isn’t a one-off demo, this is a protracted, sustained struggle.”
A second protest — led by Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights — started at 5 p.m. in Federal Plaza followed by a second, two-and-a-half-mile march.
Another roughly 200 abortion rights advocates took to the streets. The group filled a block of Dearborn Street and later staged a “die-in” by laying on Columbus Drive between Monroe Street and Jackson Drive.
“The reason we did the ‘die-in’ is that women will die,” Davis said. “Young girls will die if they’re not granted safe and legal abortions.”
Also Also Saturday, escorts for patients at Chicago clinics continued their work.
Benita Ulisano, a clinic escort coordinator for the Illinois Choice Action Team, was working as an escort at the Family Planning Associates Medical Group Saturday morning. The 61-year-old said she fears an increase of out-of-state protesters at Illinois clinics, which she said are already seeing an increase.
Beyond the impact she sees working with patients, Ulisano said her view of the Supreme Court has drastically changed, a sentiment echoed by others at the Federal Plaza demonstration.
“I’ve always had respect for the Supreme Court,” Ulisano said. “I’ve always viewed them as the be-all and end-all of the law of the land, whether I agreed with them or not. … I don’t anymore.”