Protesters line Chicago streets for abortion rights protest, Iranian women’s rights


Una Cleary

A protestor holds out a peace sign over a sign while chanting about the needs for Iranian women’s rights.

“It has been 106 days since the Supreme Court reversed 50 years of legal precedent and overturned Roe vs. Wade,” Dr. Allsion Cowett, an abortion provider, said. “The results have been devastating.” On Saturday, Oct. 8, the Federal Plaza on Dearborn St. was filled with groups of protesters, rallying for each other’s causes. They chanted, “What do we want? Freedom for Iran!” and “The people united will never be divided!” 

About 2,000 protesters marched in support of the Abortion and Full Reproductive Rights National Day of Action and for women’s rights in Iran, According to Linda Loew, leading member of Chicago for Abortion Rights, a co-sponser for the event.  

“I feel like these two fights are in the same line,” protester Hasti Sharifi said while holding up a sign reading the Iranian women’s rights movement motto: ‘Women, Life, Freedom.’ “You’re fighting for abortion rights, we’re fighting for women’s rights and they’re all women’s rights. It’s human rights.” 

Linda Loew, activist and founding member of Chicago for Abortion Rights, yells into a microphone saying “We must save us.” (Una Cleary)

Over 46 organizations around Illinois and Chicago co-sponsored the protest such as Chicago Abortion Fund and Chicago Teachers Union. Several guest speakers shared their experiences and expertise on both causes. Many also called for urgency to take action in light of the midterm elections approaching. 

“Voting is the very least you can do,” said Chicago for Abortion Rights member Mandly Medly. “You need to organize in your communities. You need to be in the streets. You need to hold those politicians accountable. The only way we’re going to ensure abortion rights is if the people demand it, not the politicians.” 

Darren Bailey, Republican candidate for Illinois governor, is a concerning candidate for many of the protestors. Bailey has said on numerous occasions his opposition to abortion rights, including in reporting done by CBS Chicago. 

Bailey has said he opposes abortions even for cases regarding rape or incest. He said the only exception under which he would allow abortions is to protect the life of the mother. 

Recently Bailey has been under fire for a video posted on his Facebook in 2017. 

“I believe that abortion is one of the greatest atrocities of our day and I believe it’s one of the greatest atrocities probably forever,” Bailey said in the video. “The attempted extermination of the Jews of World War II doesn’t even compare on a shadow of the life that has been lost with abortion since its legalization.” 

However, many Chicagoans are not worried about the turnover of Roe v. Wade impacting Chicago because of the promise Gov.  Pritzker said at the beginning of his campaign. Pritzker said that, if re-elected, he would protect abortion rights in Illinois. 

As of Sept. 29, a recent poll from The WCIA, The Hill, and Emerson College shows Pritzker has a 15-point lead over Bailey in the governor’s race.

“Anyone who is in Illinois who lives in district two or three for judicially must vote for the Supreme Court justices that are running and know who they’re running for,” President of the National Council of Jewish Woman Chicago (NCJW Chicago) Jane Swartz said. “The freedoms we enjoy in Illinois can change in a flash depending on who we vote for.” 

Protestors walk through downtown Chicago behind a sign reading “We WON’T Go Back!” (Una Cleary)

Many of the speakers during the rally spoke about the influx of out-of-state patients coming to Illinois to seek abortions.

 “Conditions for pregnant people have become even more dangerous,” Cowett said in her speech.  “I met a college student who came for a clinic from Alabama. She had mistakenly visited a fake clinic, a crisis pregnancy center where she had been lied to about the dangers of abortion. She told me she was worried that we would sedate her for the abortion and tie her tubes and make her infertile.” 

In the last year, Planned Parenthood of Illinois typically scheduled roughly 100 out-of-state patients per month. In the first week after the ruling, the number of out-of-state appointments increased to nearly 750. Indiana, a state where the extreme abortion ban has been delayed, still has abortion access but it is unattainable for many. 

“About 40% of the people that the Hoosier Abortion Fund talks to are already to Illinois for their abortion care,” Hoosier Abortion Fund States Programs Manager Jessica Marchbank said. “The night before the Indiana abortion ban took effect, I was amazed chatting with a woman whose stories shook me to my core. And with the way the world is today she [told] me, ‘I can’t trust that my life will be put before a fetus.’”

The Latina-led organization Mujeres Latines En Accion came to show solidarity with states like Indiana. 

“We are here principally to stand in solidarity with other states, and to understand that our organization which does work on supporting survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse, that this also has to do with the right to choose and access to healthcare,” said Member Sayeed Sanchez. 

Founded in Pilsen in 1973, Mujeres Latines En Accion is the longest-standing Latina-led organization in the nation. As they come up in their 50th anniversary, they are working right now to help Latina immigrations who are survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse. 

“Our sort of political statement is that we don’t believe that a person or the state has the decision to tell someone what to do with their body,” Sanchez said. “This is really important because we need to lead legislation [and] statesmen. Folks, in general, know the power of grassroots-led organizations and events.” 

Newer organizations such as South Side Community Birth Center was a co-sponsor at the event. Lead Steward Jeanine Valrie-Logan spoke on her experience as a midwife. 

“My midwifery work has completely changed since June 25,” Valrie-Logan said. “Now, I spend more time answering questions about stockpiling medication to prevent force births about long-term contraceptives.”

As abortion disproportionately affects women of color, Valrie-Logan has seen firsthand the effect of the decision on these people. 

“We are already facing a Black maternal health crisis. This decision will ensure even more devastation for Black burdened people, for folks seeking gender-affirming care and fertility assistance,” Valrie-Logan said. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a disproportionately high share of abortions are women of color.  In 2019, the abortion rate for Black women was 23.8 abortions per 1,000 women. For Hispanic women, it was 11.7 abortions per 1,000 women. 

“Healthcare is a human right and everyone deserves access to comprehensive care, including the full spectrum of reproductive care,” Rosalind Franklin University (RFU) medical student Swathi Bhuma said. “At the end of the day, when it comes to reproductive health, there’s no such thing as an absolute right or an absolute wrong. There’s just what’s right for you, given the circumstances,” RFU medical student Shruthi Bhuma said.