On December 1, the Supreme Court heard arguments for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Organization, and while it was widely reported that Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban will most likely stand, further igniting the fall of Roe v. Wade, abortion activists in Chicago protested at Federal Plaza for safe and legal abortion access.
Ali Cassity, a member of Chicago for Abortion Rights and Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, led the event and introduced speakers from Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, the Gay Liberation Network, the Chicago Teachers Union, the Clinic Vest Project and the Illinois Single Payer Coalition.
“If the Supreme Court upholds this ban, antis across the country will be emboldened to chip away at abortion rights that have been hard-fought,” Cassity said. “Twenty-two states have trigger laws waiting for the green light to severely restrict or outright ban abortion. Many others are waiting in the wings, that’s what is at stake.”
Cassity and other speakers emphasized it is no longer if Roe v. Wade will be overturned, but when. While Illinois will remain a safe haven for abortion seekers, every state bordering Illinois is categorized as “severely restricted” by Planned Parenthood, with the trigger bans in place that Cassity explained.
“We will not be intimidated,” Cassity said. “This is about more than one case and one outcome; this is about defending reproductive justice and reproductive rights. No matter how this case shakes out, we will not back down, we will not compromise. We know that we have the right to full autonomy over our bodies and our own lives.”
Around 100 protestors were present, a sharp decrease from the 3,000 reported at the Bans Off Our Bodies rally for abortion rights in October. Beth Massey, a 74-year-old member of the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, said she has been protesting for abortion rights since before Roe v. Wade and believes that abortion rights are won in the streets.
“I was in the streets demonstrating for abortion rights,” Massey said. “We were protesting civil rights issues, Chicanos struggles, the anti-war movement, women’s issues—it wasn’t just abortion. We have had struggles in this period, but it doesn’t have the same cohesiveness that we had in the 60s and 70s. But, at the same time, I think the opinions that people have are still very much with the right for women to control their bodies, I do feel that, and as long as I can still play a role in the movement, I will.”
Massey told Rebellious while she never had an abortion, she has friends and loved ones who have. When she was 19 years old and about to start college, her mother convinced her primary care doctor to put Massey on the birth control pill, even though at the time, it wasn’t traditionally prescribed to young women and Massey wasn’t sexually active. Four months later, Massey’s mother died of breast cancer.
“I was really lucky, but I know a lot of people who were not and have lasting effects from their abortions,” she said.
Jacquelyn Price Ward, chair of the women’s rights committee for the Chicago Teachers Union, shared with Rebellious that the committee has long supported abortion rights.
“We all have different beliefs, whether you believe in abortion or not—a person has the right to choose. It should be safe and accessible if they choose to do that. I still think we cannot legislate what a person does with their body.”
Price Ward said that a concern for her is when people must travel to other states to get abortion care or seek out unsafe care because they have no other options.
“You never know why a person has to make a hard decision like that,” she said. “We need to stand up, we need to keep protesting and we need to keep fighting for the right to reproductive choices.”