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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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‘We can win this battle:’ Evanston residents, politicians rally for abortion rights

Micah Sandy/The Daily Northwestern
Activists and politicians from Evanston and Chicago gathered to support abortion rights on Sunday.

Content Warning: This story contains mentions of sexual assault.

Poet and dancer Sunshine Lombré shared a spoken word piece about reproductive rights and sexual violence to a crowd of listeners dressed in pink at Evanston’s Pro-Choice Rally and March on Sunday.

Lombré emphasized that most cases of sexual assault go unreported, which contributes to minimized statistics about abortions as a result of sexual violence.

“Statistics say that only 1% of people who get abortions report rape as the reason, but it seems also intuitive that there’s millions more,” Lombré said. “They didn’t want unprotected sex then and don’t want the labels now. They didn’t want a baby then and still don’t want one now.”

Lombré was one of over 100 activists and residents who gathered at Raymond Park for the rally to advocate for nationwide abortion rights on Sunday.

Many of the event’s speakers and activists said they saw a need to rally for abortion rights in light of a June 2022 Supreme Court decision, Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that reversed the precedent of federal protections for abortion. Since the decision, several states have advanced legislation limiting access to abortion and other forms of reproductive healthcare.

The rally and march began at Raymond Park and was planned by the Evanston Pro-Choice Committee, a group of Evanston residents advocating for reproductive rights. Sunday’s event was the second annual rally organized by the group.

Kemone Hendricks, a member of the Evanston Pro-Choice Committee, noted the importance of advocating, even in cities like Evanston where reproductive healthcare remains accessible. 

“Things have not gotten better. Things have gotten worse,” Hendricks said. “There’s still a lot of places that are not pro-choice, and that are not safe havens, and we just want to really spread the message.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Evanston, voiced her support for reproductive rights and applauded Illinois’ efforts to prioritize reproductive health. 

“When it comes to reproductive rights, the American people are on our side,” she said. “Everywhere there has been an opportunity for regular people to cast their vote, they cast it for reproductive rights, and so we can win this battle.”

She emphasized that Illinois residents need to continue to vote in local, state and national elections to empower officials who care about abortion rights.

The march was co-sponsored by various organizations and institutions, including Planned Parenthood of Illinois, Northwestern and Evanston Present and Future. Organizations such as the Chicago Abortion Fund and Chicago for Abortion Rights shared flyers, petitions and opportunities for participants to volunteer or donate. 

Several local leaders and activists, including Schakowsky, also gave speeches at the beginning of Sunday’s event. 

Alicia Hurtado, a representative from the Chicago Abortion Fund, discussed their experience helping people across state lines. According to Hurtado, 85% of the people who called the organization’s helpline this year were not from Illinois. 

Hurtado also praised attendees for their willingness to publicly support abortion rights. They emphasized the need for clarity in the movement, including in language regarding abortions. 

“I want to challenge people to move beyond euphemisms like choice and reproductive health, or exclusionary language like women’s rights,” they said. “Let’s end the stigma and say what we need, which is that we are here to fight for abortion access.” 

Other notable speakers included Mayor Daniel Biss, State Sen. Laura Fine, D-Glenview, and state Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston.

After the speeches, attendees left Raymond Park and marched north on Chicago Avenue to make a loop through NU’s campus and downtown Evanston. 

Evanston police blocked off streets and directed traffic while marchers walked through the streets wearing pink, holding signs and exclaiming chants such as, “Our bodies, our choice.” 

The march ended back at Raymond Park, where participants gathered to sign petitions and made donations to various organizations and causes. 

Evanston Pro-Choice organizer Gretchen Brewster emphasized the need for advocates to commit their time and money to reproductive justice. 

Brewster noted that NU had made a “small donation” to the rally but that she hoped the University would “step up a little more” in supporting future events.

Several NU students also participated in the rally. Weinberg sophomore Sydney Williams said she came to the event with NU College Feminists, a club that empowers marginalized gender identities on campus. 

Williams said the speakers were “empowering,” and the rally brought her attention to the importance of advocating for abortion rights everywhere.

“My biggest takeaway from today is definitely that there are a lot of people who support this cause openly,” Williams said. “Rather than being a quiet supporter, it’s important to get involved and actually make a difference in your community.” 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @LilyOgburn

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