Neither the subzero wind chills nor a steadily gathering crowd of anti-abortion demonstrators deterred an impassioned group of nearly 400 counter-protestors from taking to the opposite side of the street from a March for Life rally held at the Federal Court house in downtown Chicago Jan. 17.
Although March for Life organizers boasted a considerable set-up of loudspeakers, it was not enough to subdue voices from the Feminist Uprising against Inequality and Exploitation (FURIE) and allied organizations who called for an end to religious, political and societal attempts to control and subjugate women.
"Abortion rights have always been won on the streets and we fully intend to continue winning that battle on the streets," FURIE member Iggy told Windy City Times. "We are going to make enough noise to drown out those people who want to impose their views on other people's bodies."
"The right to accessible abortion is under threat," protestor Margaret Aguilar added. "The people who are most profoundly affected are poor women and women of color. This is just another example of the religious fascism that exists which wants to force their own morality upon other people."
Drivers passing down Dearborn Streetwhich served as the gulf between to competing ideologiespressed their horns in support of the pro-choice gathering, many of whom faced down the March for Life supporters holding their own signs up (illustrated by the stark images of wire coat hangers ) and called for "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology."
"Our bodies. Our lives. Our right to decide," the protestors chanted, along with "Pro-life, you're a killer. We remember Dr. Tiller"referring to George Tiller, who was murdered by an anti-choice activist in 2009.
"The majority of Americans are pro-choice," FURIE representative Mallory Harwardt declared to the crowd. "It's time we stopped acting like we are the silent majority. We need to use our passion and our anger to push back against the sexist, homophobic and racist rhetoric that [anti-choicers] espouse. We don't need people who will judge us and legislate our bodies. We need access to reproductive health care that is affordable and in our communities that is based on science with compassion for our lives and the lives of living children."
The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear the case of Women's Health v. Cole on March 2, involving a Texas law that challenges reproductive rights through a laundry list of restrictions placed on abortion clinics.
"They are attempting to legislate clinics out of existence," Harwardt stated. "We must organize and we must be loud."
"They say no choice. We say pro-choice," the protestors responded.
Gay Liberation Network founder Andy Thayer drew comparisons between the right to choose and the fight for marriage equality.
"It was about more than just whether or not we were able to marry; it was about whether or not our government was going to trust us to control our own bodies, our own lives and our own futures," he stated to a resounding cheer. "Every LGBT person was diminished until we won that right. Until abortion rights are secure for every woman and girl in this society, every woman and girl's right is diminished by our own government."
FURIE organizer Georgette Kirkendall had a similarly resounding message for the demonstrators across the street from her.
"These people say that they are pro-life. They are full of shit," she said. "If they believe human rights have value, why did they not bus themselves to our city when we were fighting against police murder and brutality? Why have they not mobilized for universal childcare? Why are they not mobilized against austerity? Why are they not mobilized to help working class people in this country? They're not pro-life. They are pro-control."
It was a message that the pro-choice demonstrators took up Dearborn Street, shrouding the yellow balloons held by the March for Life attendees from view with their own arms lifted high into the air.
For more information about FURIE, visit www.facebook.com/chicagofurie .