A broad coalition of organizations held a March for Abortion Rights March 5 in Chicago's Northalsted (formerly Boystown) neighborhood.
The march took place ahead of International Women's Day (March 8) to, according to the event press release, "demand that the [U.S.] Supreme Court keep their 'hands off our bodies' and uphold Roe v. Wade."
Chicago for Abortion Rights spearheaded this event alongside Chicago NOW, Clinic Vest Project, Freedom Road Socialist Organization-Chicago, Gay Liberation Network, Illinois Choice Action Team, Illinois Single Payer Coalition, Physicians for a National Health Program-Illinois, Party for Socialism and Liberation Chicago, Pride Without Prejudice, Radical Women-U.S., Refuse Fascism Chicago and Reproductive Transparency Now.
"Those leading the attack on abortion are the same people who denounce #BlackLivesMatter and barely conceal their contempt for LGBTQ people, immigrants and refugees," said Chicago for Abortion Rights volunteer activist Nancy Rosenstock ahead of the event. "They are the same people opposing voting rights, union rights and the social services that would begin to address the gaping inequalities in this country."
Protestors gathered in front of Center on Halsted to hear remarks from Chicago for Abortion Rights founding member Linda Loew, Pride Without Prejudice's Ashabi Owagboriaye, CODEPINK Middle East and Peace Collective Coordinator Danaka Katovich and longtime LGBTQ activist, Gay Liberation Network Co-Founder and Chicago for Abortion Rights member Andy Thayer ahead of the march.
The event kicked off with rally-goers singing along to an original song "Her body, her choice, her decision, her voice."
"I was also active in the fight to legalize the right to choose abortion, in the early 1970s before the historic Roe v. Wade decision," said Loew. "That is not a world we want to go back to, nor ahead to a world made even darker by a growing right-wing assault on all of our rights. We are here because we are facing down an unacceptable threat to cut off the right of millions of women and also transgender and gender non-conforming people to exercise control over all of our bodies and lives. We are here because that historic 1973 Roe decision has been the law of the land for nearly 50 years and is now hanging by a thread."
Loew said the color green has been used by abortion activists in Central and South American on their signs, banners and bandanas to amplify their message and this is why they chose to wear green during this event (volunteers handed out green bandanas to any participant that wanted one ahead of the march).
Additionally, Loew spoke about the myriads of ways GOP-controlled states are restricting not only abortion access; but also LGBTQ and especially transgender rights, voting rights, labor organizing, what can be taught in schools and banning books they do not like. She called on everyone who cares about these issues to get into the streets.
"We cannot allow a few individuals in robes; sitting in their high, remote and protected chambers to tell us what we need or what our rights should be," said Loew. "We must fight for them, as we always have."
Owagboriaye spoke about how everyone assumes Chicago is a "very liberal, open, accepting city" but that is not the case due to the "constant battles with our mayor and the people the mayor puts into power, just to get our own rights … and it is absolutely despicable." She added that this protest is happening in Chicago because it is currently safe to do so since Illinois protects all reproductive rights access, including abortion, in state law.
"Unfortunately we live in a country where this is not true for a majority of the people," said Owagboriaye. "Right now, Roe v. Wade is at risk of being overturned and when that happens … we have to make sure that … we protect each other."
Owagboriaye reminded everyone that transgender, gender nonconforming and non-binary people are also under attack from anti-abortion activists, legislators and judges. She added that "Black and Brown people are consistently undergoing harm because of the color of our skin."
Katovich said her organization was started due to the United States attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq and that "imperialism and patriarchy are ideologies and practices rooted in control." She called them "unsustainable, harmful and targeted." Katovich said that peace activists know that this starts within one's own communities and interpersonal relationships and that a "just world would be a place where anyone who needed an abortion could get one, not only safely and easily but for free and wherever they find themselves in this country."
"If you are a cis gay man who is concerned about your rights but does not care about what happens to abortion rights, then you are extremely short-sighted at best and a complete fool at worst," said Thayer. "Because if and when the [U.S.] Supreme Court trashes the right to legal abortion this spring your rights are next in the crosshairs. The religious right will take that win against women and gender nonconforming people to pile on against even more people's rights."
Thayer also spoke about the "outrageous" anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ legislation that has recently been passed by one or both chambers of statehouses with Republican majorities and Republican Governors. He added that in the 1970s there was intersectional activism among many social justice movements to advance LGBTQ, Black and women's rights as well as protesting the Vietnam War. Thayer also called out the current Democratic Party leadership's failure in protecting abortion and other reproductive rights access. He called on everyday people to speak out because "people like you were how and why we won what rights we have."
Among the many chants that the over 100 protestors shouted out during the march from Center on Halsted on Halsted St. to the DePaul University campus on Fullerton Ave. were "When abortion rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back," "When transgender rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back," "When queer rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back," "My body, my choice, bans off our bodies," "Racist, sexist, anti-gay, right wing bigots go away," "Queer, straight, Black, white, all unite for abortion rights" and "They say go back, we say fight back."
Members of partner organizations also spoke in front of the DePaul University campus following the march.
Of the many fliers handed out was a Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights rally and march Tuesday, March 8, at 3 p.m. at State and Jackson streets in Chicago's Loop to commemorate International Women's Day.
A Chicago for Abortion Rights Meets the Global Struggle event will take place at Uri-Eichen Gallery, 2101 S. Halsted St., in the Pilsen neighborhood, with an outdoor window exhibit opening Friday, March 11, 6-8 p.m. For more information, contact email@example.com .