Countering anti-abortion protests were scheduled at hundreds of Planned Parenthood clinics across the United States Feb. 11, with an estimated 300 demonstrators gathered outside the Thompson Center downtown for a rally in support of reproductive rights. About 10 DePaul students joined the rally, organized by the Chicago Campaign to Expose Crisis Pregnancy Centers, Shout your Abortion 773, the Illinois Choice Action Team and the International Socialist Organization (ISO). The protests and counter-protests occurred over the weekend at a time of increased scrutiny over federal funding to Planned Parenthood and promises made by President Trump to defund the
family planning organization — a pledge met by outrage from Democrats and praise from Republicans on Capitol Hill.
The rally began at 5 p.m. and many in attendance spoke on a microphone, condemning pro-life protesters and calling for an increased priority by lawmakers to protect reproductive rights for cisgender and transgender persons alike. It was an inclusive environment with demonstrators chanting, “Queer, straight, black, white, all unite for women’s rights.”
Rachel Cohen, one of the rally’s organizers, said pro-choice activists must change their methods to best counter the “attack” on women’s reproductive rights under the Trump administration.
“I think it’s really important that we rebuild a bottom up movement where people feel confident to unapologetically defend abortion rights (. . .) and reproductive justice in general,” Cohen said. “I think for way too long we haven’t been in the streets so we’ve been hoping we could just protect service providers. In the meantime, the right wing has redefined this as an issue not of women’s rights but of fetal rights.”
DePaul senior Felipe Bascunan was among the demonstrators outside the Thompson Center. He too saw a need for change in the defense of reproductive rights.
“Reproductive justice is bigger than just this because our demand isn’t going to be ‘make abortion legal,’” Bascunan said. “Abortion is legal, but who is it legal for? (Abortion is legal for) people who can afford it and (for) people who live in a major city. We want free abortion on demand for everybody. The Democrats and Planned Parenthood have given up on making this demand. (Hillary) Clinton had this stance to make abortion ‘safe, legal and rare.’ You see this in Planned Parenthood (broadcasting) that abortions are only three percent of what (they) do. And what we want to say is we’re not trying to minimize (abortion). We’re trying to make this a basic human right.”
The effort to defund Planned Parenthood has been covered heavily by the media, but Bascunan said pro-choice demonstrations are vital in combating abortion protests that have continued since the procedure was legalized in the 1970s.
“No matter what position (Trump) personally takes on this, he has emboldened a far right which has made attacking reproductive rights one of its central planks since Roe v. Wade,” Bascunan said. “It’s important to understand that this has been an ongoing attack that has been massively lost in the past couple decades (in regards to) the people who have actually stood up to these people. Anti-abortion protesters are allowed to protest against clinics across the country unopposed because there isn’t a mass (pro-choice) movement anymore.”
Bascunan said this approach by Democrats and Planned Parenthood only helps the pro-life movement.
It’s insane to me that they’re seeding this ground to the right,” he said. “They’re basically admitting they’ve lost the moral argument. So they’re saying that (abortion) is somehow wrong but they want it anyway. We need to make the argument again that abortion is a basic human right for everybody.”
DePaul junior Taylor Edwards is a member of ISO and helped arrange the group of students that joined the Thompson Center rally. She said the rally outside the Thompson Center and similar rallies across the country are important as they send a message to the White House that progressives opposing Trump’s policies will continue to protest for the rest of his presidency.
“For this specific action, I think Donald Trump has been specifically targeting identities in certain ways (such as) the Muslim ban and defunding health care for women,” Edwards said. “We need to show that the Women’s March wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t a random event. We need to show that that was the start to a new political commitment to opposing Donald Trump and his attack on marginalized identities.”