Chicago-area protesters call for federal reproductive rights protection amid Supreme Court deliberation on abortion pills


Lily Carey/Daily Senior Staffer

Protesters for abortion rights marched to Millennium Park, where event organizers from Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights addressed onlookers.

Lily Carey, Senior Staffer

Content warning: This article contains mentions of domestic violence.

More than 100 protesters marched through downtown Chicago on Saturday, joining reproductive health advocacy group Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights to call for “legal abortion on demand and without apology.” 

The protest came on the heels of a recent ruling by Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The ruling suspended the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, a type of abortion medication taken within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. First approved by the FDA in 2000, mifepristone is now used in over half of abortions carried out in the U.S.  

A Wednesday decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit struck down Kacsmaryk’s ruling and kept mifepristone’s FDA approval in place, but restricted access to the medication. The restrictions included limiting use of the medication to the first seven weeks of pregnancy and requiring an in-person doctor visit to obtain the medication. 

On Friday, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito temporarily blocked the restrictions imposed by the 5th Circuit ruling until last Wednesday night. However, the court is expected to decide as early as this week whether or not to uphold these restrictions. 

At Saturday’s protest, advocates called for the federal protection of abortion rights, emphasizing the role of medications such as mifepristone in allowing people to control their pregnancy and reproductive health. 

“This is all about whether women are going to be treated as full human beings or not,” said event emcee Jay Becker. “This is about whether we’re going to be able to control our lives, our bodies, our destinies, or whether we’re going to be reduced to baby-making machines. And that is already happening.”

The event began in Federal Plaza with a crowd of about 60 people. Protesters then marched up State Street, through Millennium Park and back south to the plaza. The crowd nearly doubled in size during the march, with many passersby stopping to listen and even joining along the way. 

A crowd of people walk down a city street, holding green and black signs.
The crowd of protesters marched down State Street towards Millennium Park.

Protest leaders also criticized recent decisions made under the majority-conservative Supreme Court, especially the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling in June that overturned constitutional federal protections of abortion under Roe v. Wade.  

Becker said the court is “dominated by Christian fascists” who have failed to follow judicial precedents and to protect women’s rights, a message echoed by several others at the protest.

“When we say fascism, we mean the rejection and overturning of democracy … we mean a passionate desire to impose traditional social hierarchies of class, race, nationality, and of course, gender,” said RU4AR volunteer Paul Street.

Since the Dobbs ruling, Street told The Daily that attendance at many of the group’s protests has declined. He said Saturday’s crowd was significantly larger, showing the importance of recent rulings on mifepristone to area residents.

Ahead of the potential Supreme Court ruling on mifepristone, Becker said RU4AR aims to broaden their activism network. She said protesters should be prepared to take immediate action if a decision on the abortion medication is made in the coming days.

For River Forest resident Iris Saavedra, who attended Saturday’s protest, the importance of accessing proper healthcare throughout pregnancy is “a missing part of (the) debate.” 

“I mean, there’s so much that can go wrong (during pregnancy),” Saavedra said. “So for somebody else to dictate that … it’s incredible ignorance of what science is and how women’s bodies work.”

A crowd of people walk across a city street, carrying green and black signs and a green banner reading ‘Legal Abortion Nationwide.’ The Art Institute of Chicago is visible in the background.
Protesters march across Michigan Avenue, near the Art Institute of Chicago.

Attendee Janice Constante said many lawmakers’ arguments behind the passage of recent heartbeat bills in several states that ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy are “not sound.” 

Constante, who is a nurse, said many women don’t know they’re pregnant at six weeks.

Attendee Jett Emerson said her experience growing up in group homes drove her to join Saturday’s protest. She said abortion is key to protecting people from domestic abuse. 

“I just see my sisters going through the cycle of domestic violence, and just that opportunity getting taken away from them by not having that upbringing or knowing what to do,” Emerson said. “It’s our body, (abortion) is a medical thing, so let it happen.”

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Twitter: @lilylcarey

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