Thousands gather in Chicago to march for reproductive justice following Roe v. Wade opinion leak


Alyce Brown/The Daily Northwestern

A crowd gathered at Federal Plaza in Chicago Saturday afternoon for what organizers called “We Won’t Go Back: Rally to Defend Abortion Rights.” The rally was organized by a collection of Chicago activist organizations focused mainly on women’s rights and healthcare rights. The protest comes after a draft of a Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade leaked last week.

Lily Carey and Joanna Hou

Content Warnings: this article contains mentions of suicide and sexual assault. 

With a cardboard sign in hand, Ren Roths stood along Congress Plaza Drive in Grant Park Saturday afternoon chanting “my body, my choice.”

Following Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked draft opinion indicating the Supreme Court’s plans to overturn Roe v. Wade, protests erupted nationwide. Roths and her friends, who are from Indiana, said they wanted to join pro-choice marchers in Chicago at the “We Won’t Go Back: Rally to Defend Abortion Rights” march. 

“We were absolutely outraged, and we knew that we needed to make a stand and say something as soon as possible,” Roths said. “We plan to come out every weekend and be here until changes are made.”

Roths joined more than 1,000 people who gathered Saturday to protest the drafted opinion, marching from Chicago’s Federal Plaza to Ida B. Wells Drive in Grant Park. Before marching, several reproductive justice advocates and state politicians spoke about their work with local abortion providers and advocacy networks, as well as about their personal ties to the pro-choice cause.

Longtime activist Debby Pope, who sits on the women’s rights committee of the Chicago Teachers Union and is an executive board member, spoke about her experience having an illegal abortion at 17.

“The fight is both personal and political to me,” Pope said. “It’s extremely important that we not allow women to go back, that we not allow women to be afraid … that we not allow women to die in the quest for health care.”

Lt Gov. Juliana Stratton and Gov. J.B. Pritzker also addressed the crowd, voicing their support for the movement and assuring marchers that Illinois will remain a “safe haven” for abortion rights in the Midwest.

Following the speeches, marchers took to the streets, waving signs and chanting to the beat of a drum. 

Marcher Bailee Weaver said Alito’s draft opinion is “absolutely disgusting.” She said many survivors have already had their rights taken from them once by their abusers. If the court takes away the right to abortion, Weaver said survivors lose more autonomy — something that motivated her as a survivor of assault herself to join Saturday’s event.

“I knew that if I didn’t have access to an abortion, and I ended up pregnant and I didn’t know what to do, I would kill myself,” Weaver said.

Weaver mentioned that 97% of women will experience sexual harassment during their life. This risk, she said, makes standing up for reproductive rights especially important.

In the coming months, Weaver said she hopes more people come out to protest and march, in addition to educating themselves about the nuances of abortion, writing letters to their senators and showing up to vote. 

Camryn Carmichael, a Chicago resident who attended Saturday’s protest, said the leaked decision gave them a new awareness on the lack of influence voters have in systems like the Supreme Court. 

“It just points out so many flaws in the way our government works,” Carmichael said. “The fact that so many of these Supreme Court justices were appointed by presidents who didn’t even win the popular election, it really makes you realize that this isn’t a true democracy.”

Another attendee, Monica M.T., who requested their full last name be omitted for privacy reasons, brought their son to the event, saying they want to show him that society is still progressing and ensure he’s left with a “good mindset” of people. 

M.T. has been attending protests herself since she was 6 years old. Coming from a long line of activists, she said her son has two moms and is aware of the privileges men have. 

“We’ve told him that ‘Unfortunately, we live in a time right now where men do have more advantage than women, and we’re gonna make sure that you’re one of the men that is out there fighting for the right thing,’” M.T. said. 

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