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Reproductive Rights Activists Rally and March Through The Loop

Hundreds of demonstrators packed into Daley Plaza and later marched through the Loop to Trump Tower Thursday evening to protest severe restrictions on abortion passed in several states across the country in recent weeks.

Reproductive rights demonstrators rally in Daley Plaza. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

“We’re all here today because we’re angry,” said Kelly Hayes of the Lifted Voices collective, one of several groups who organized the demonstration. “Some of us might be here because we’re afraid. But we’re all here because we’re ready. Ready to fight, learn, and build. If we mobilize like I know we can I promise you the Republicans are not ready for us.”

The crowd chanted things like “all genders, all voices, our bodies, our choices,” and “abortion ban, hell no!”

Demonstrators surrounded the Picasso in the plaza, which was used as a platform for speakers who shared their concerns over the loss of reproductive freedom, as well as resources for those seeking reproductive healthcare counselling and procedures.

Polling shows that the majority of Americans favor legal abortion. A Morning Consult/Politico survey published this week found that 56 percent of those surveyed think that the recent restrictive abortion legislation in Alabama and Georgia goes too far. In general, surveys conducted by Pew Research show 60 percent of women and 57 percent of men in America favor legal abortion.

Despite this, right wing conservatives – emboldened by the Trump administration which has helped pack the Supreme Court with a majority of conservative justices – have been making a hard push to restrict access to abortion and other reproductive healthcare. More than a dozen states this year have either passed or attempted to pass legislation that restricts, nearly outlaws, or criminalizes abortion.

Abortion restrictions impact all people, but harms marginalized people the hardest. Jes Skolnik, a writer, editor, and activist, detailed a heartbreaking tale of attempting to obtain abortion services after being raped. Skolnik was sent to a crisis pregnancy center and not only dissuaded from obtaining an abortion by being shown graphic photos and other scare tactics, but given racist counsel because the rapist was white and white babies were “in demand.”

Reproductive rights demonstrators rally in Daley Plaza. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

Skolnik told the crowd in a speech you can now read on Medium that the fight for reproductive rights is connected to every fight for liberation.

“It is a fight for bodily autonomy deeply interconnected to our struggles as trans and intersex people, as queer people,” said Skolnik. “It is a fight against white nationalism. It’s clear from so much of the rhetoric and legislation that we hear and see before us now that the authors of these bills have designed them because they want more white children and less of everyone else. This country’s history of forced sterilization – which is also a reproductive rights issue – of black women, indigenous women, Mexican-American women, and in prisons – speaks to that as well.”

“I’m not here to ask just for abortion access in cases of rape like what happened to me, I’m here to ask for abortion access at any time,” Skolnik added.  Safe, legal, informed, and affordable — and for sexual health and pregnancy care for all genders, all healthcare, to be so as well.”

Illinois does not have draconian abortion restrictions in the way that states like Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri have, but state legislators have ramped up efforts to push an abortion rights bill in the wake of lawmakers elsewhere pushing restrictive legislation. A bill introduced in the state General Assembly would repeal Illinois’ Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act and the Abortion Act of 1975, which would remove restrictions on abortion later in a pregnancy and expand insurance coverage for reproductive healthcare. It would also remove waiting periods, spousal consent, and other restrictions on abortion facilities.

Reproductive rights demonstrators rally in Daley Plaza. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

“If Illinois makes an affirmative statement that abortion should be safe and legal for women in our state, we will be in a better space than we are right now,” Rep. Sara Feigenholtz told the Chicago Tribune on Thursday. “Time is not our friend.”

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