Abortion rights activists gathered at 219 S. Dearborn St. on Saturday afternoon, January 8, to counterprotest the anti-abortion March for “Life” rally across the street at Federal Plaza.
There was a large police presence, with more than 50 uniformed Chicago Police officers visible, as well as several U.S. Marshals.
The anti-abortion rally was part of a weekend-long “March for Life” convention in Chicago. Signs read: “Save Midwestern Lives,” “The Pro-Life Generation” and other anti-abortion sentiments. One protestor had a sign against birth control, shouting to get “rid of birth control and Plan B.”
A speaker for the anti-abortion rally fired up the crowd by saying, “Remember this day, you are here the year Roe v. Wade dies.”
At times, the two opposing groups interacted between the dozens of CPD officers who stood guard. An anti-abortion protestor yelled at a group of young women, “You were made to have babies. Real women are mothers. You just kill your problems.”
The counterprotest led by abortion-rights activists maintained their presence throughout the anti-abortion rally and then took to the streets for their own march.
Jennifer Taylor drove from Louisville to attend the abortion rights counterprotest after seeing it posted on social media and deciding she had to be there.
“I need to be doing all I can, even if it is a small step of showing up with a group to defend reproductive rights,” she said. “It’s what I need to do.”
Taylor, who shared that she had an abortion, said that she didn’t see the type of “hate” when she had the procedure that she does now against abortion.
“Looking back, I don’t feel like I saw this hate then,” Taylor said. “I had hoops to jump through, but it didn’t deter my decision and what I knew was right for me.”
Laura Lamar, a 67-year-old Chicago resident, shared that she had an abortion when she was a senior in high school. Her family had enough money set aside that she was able to fly to New York to obtain the procedure, but she said not everyone was that lucky.
“Because of my abortion, my life was forever changed,” Lamar said. “I had a great life; everyone should have the choice.”
Lamar spent her life working as a nurse and remembers seeing many people come in with botched illegal abortions. She said she thought in 1973 when Roe v. Wade was passed, it would end.
“I am repulsed by the other side, you can’t decide what we do with our bodies,” Lamar said.
Lyla Fielding, a 14-year-old from Oak Park, came to the abortion rights rally with her mother and a group of friends and family. Fielding’s friends’ mother is Dr. Allison Cowett, a speaker at the event who’s an obstetrician/gynecologist specializing in contraception and abortion. Cowett is also medical director of Family Planning Associates Medical Group in the West Loop, one of the largest independent abortion providers in the country.
Cowett spoke at the event explaining how abortion rights activists must mobilize against looming abortion bans.
“The people that have abortions are the people next to us,” she said. “Your Starbucks barista, the person sitting next to you on the L—we are everywhere. We must flood the streets and speak out to those who will listen. Not the people across the street, our friends and neighbors so they stand with us.”
Fielding shouted with her friends during the protest, each holding a homemade sign supporting abortion rights.
“I just want to grow up in a world where I have the right to do what I want with my body,” Fielding said.
The anti-abortion march was later joined by the American white nationalist hate group the Patriot Front, who marched with shields and upside-down American flags.