‘For Those Without Choice’ art exhibit celebrates abortion rights and bodily autonomy


Jack Austin/Daily Senior Staffer

The windows of the Weinberg/Newton Gallery read “Abortion is not a crime.” A pro-choice art exhibit in partnership with Planned Parenthood is on display at the gallery through April 15.

Jack Austin, Senior Staffer

On view at Weinberg/Newton Gallery in River West through April 15, “For Those Without Choice” explores abortion rights and reproductive rights. 

In partnership with Planned Parenthood, the exhibit comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 reversal of Roe v. Wade, which had ensured the right to abortion nationwide since 1973. As a result of its overturn, a complicated spectrum of abortion rights across states has arisen, with some states reducing or banning access. For low-income individuals who want to get an abortion in states that restrict access to the procedure, limited options include risky illegal abortions. 

Artist Hope Esser, whose work is featured in the exhibition, said the U.S.has regressed in terms of discussions about abortion. Esser said abortion should be available to all in the U.S., regardless of ability to pay or insurance status. 

“The goal is for these things to be out in the open and not be a secret or have to be treated like it has to be a secret,” Esser said. “It’s okay to celebrate having an abortion if you have to have an abortion. I don’t think that that should be a shameful thing.”

Esser said she appreciated the diversity of voices, mediums and approaches in the exhibit, which features more than 20 artists. 

Several years ago, Esser participated in another Weinberg/Newton exhibit on abortion, with art less focused specifically on abortion but rather on the female body from her own perspective. 

After Roe’s reversal and after she had an abortion, Esser said she wanted to confront the topic more directly in this exhibit. In one piece, Esser enlarged an inkjet print of a sonogram she received directly before having an abortion. 

Esser said she decided to price the large photo print the same as it costs to get an abortion without health insurance. 

The gallery’s executive director and curator of the show Nabiha Khan-Giordano said she wanted the space to serve as a place for dialogue where more people can join the fight for reproductive freedom. In wake of challenges to the legality of abortion, Khan-Giordano said such freedoms cannot be taken for granted. 

“For me, ‘For Those Without Choice’ is a showing of solidarity and celebration of pro-choice advocacy (and) health care through art,” Khan-Giordano said. “When folks come here, I think they can experience a number of reproductive destinies, which include but are not limited to abortion.” 

Artist D Rosen created a physical sculpture reflecting on bodily autonomy for the exhibit. 

As a nonbinary individual, Rosen said they were concerned about what cis people do not understand about the issue of choice. 

“I think that the ways that abortion affects nonbinary people and trans people is not necessarily as much a part of the conversations I feel it could be,” Rosen said. “There’s a lot of language that’s very centered on cis people and cis bodies that I think can be really alienating.” 

Rosen said bodily autonomy and trans-affirming care, specifically health care, are a relevant but lacking aspect of conversations on abortion. 

According to Gallery Manager Christian Ortiz, Weinberg/ Newton operates as a non-commercial gallery, partnering with nonprofits focused on social justice issues that determine exhibit themes.

One of Ortiz’s favorite pieces featured is an American flag composed of abortion pills, he said, because it encapsulates a way of thinking about who has access to abortion in America. 

“With Roe v. Wade, or the rollback of that, I think that it is very timely,” Ortiz said. “So much is still happening now. It’s like fighting for a way not to be terrified.” 

Rosen said they view art’s impact on issues like the right of choice through an epistemological lens in which art can offer extensive poetic ways to look at philosophical understandings of political issues. 

Khan Giordano said she appreciated the passion of the artists, stemming from their personal experiences. 

“The fight for reproductive freedom is central to the exhibition,” Khan-Giordano said. “It’s important to recognize that such a freedom cannot be taken for granted. The artists in this exhibition, they’re strong, they’re intergenerational. They really made their life experiences and their art available to this cause.” 

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