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Hundreds rally for reproductive rights in Springfield

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Springfield was one of 20 communities across Illinois to host rallies or events in support of reproductive rights on Saturday, Oct. 2.

More than 600 events were held nationwide as a response to SB 8, a new law in Texas that effectively banned abortion in the state. The law states that an abortion can’t be performed if there is a “fetal heartbeat” and allows private citizens to sue anyone who gets an abortion or helps someone get an abortion.

“The goal for today is to express our outrage at the Texas abortion ban,” said Brigid Leahy, senior director of public policy for Planned Parenthood Illinois Action. “And mobilize people so that they are engaged for the fights in the coming weeks and months. Because we know the Texas ban is only the beginning.”

Leahy said that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, all of Illinois’ neighboring states are likely to ban abortion or add so many restrictions that it is effectively banned. That’s why Illinois, which is one of the few Midwestern states to actively support reproductive rights, needs to be a safe haven for people. Both those who may need it in the future and those who are already travelling here.

“Just two days after the Texas abortion ban went into effect, Planned Parenthood of Illinois health centers started seeing Texas patients,” she said.

Illinois was already a destination for people in other states seeking an abortion. Missouri has a single clinic that performs abortions and most people needing one already cross the Mississippi for care.

“Unfortunately, not everybody has the resources to be able to travel. And there are going to be people: people of communities of color, disabled people, people who are in violent and unhealthy relationships, who may not be able to make the trip,” Leahy said.

The rally brought about 500 people to Old State Capitol Plaza, and no counterprotestors. An anti-mask protest a few blocks away at the Illinois Statehouse was one third the size.

A coalition of organizations took part in the Springfield rally, including ACLU Springfield Branch, Action Illinois, Black Lives Matter Springfield, the Coalition of Rainbow Alliances (CORAL), Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, Resistor Sisterhood, The Sangamon Valley Group of the Sierra Club and Springfield Call 2ACTion.

Speakers included Sunshine Clemons from Black Lives Matter Springfield; Rev. Martin Woulfe of the Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Church; Dr. Erica Nelson, SIU School of Medicine and former Planned Parenthood of Illinois Board Member; and Hannah Baity, a student at the University of Illinois at Springfield and youth activist.

Springfield poet Shatriya Smith spoke of how Planned Parenthood had helped her and performed her poem “I Know You Hate Me.”

No elected officials spoke from the the stage, but two of Springfield’s alderwomen did attend the rally in a show of support.

“I’m here for support,” said Ward 5 Alderwoman Lakeisha Purchase with Ward 6 Alderwoman Kristin DiCenso agreeing. Purchase said that the Texas ban and another attempt from Mississippi were appalling.

Even though Illinois is largely a safe haven, both were concerned about the threat to reproductive rights nationally.

“It’s definitely under threat,” said DiCenso. “It’s a scary time. Women should be able to make choices about their own lives.”

“[The rally] sends a message,” Purchase said. “We’re doing this nationwide, it’s not just being done in Springfield. We’re better together as a community and bringing our voices forward.”

While abortion access is, largely, unrestricted in Illinois, there are still some issues. Speakers called for the repeal of the Parental Notice of Abortion Act (PNA) in the state. The law requires anyone under the age of 18 to inform a parent or guardian that they are getting an abortion 48 hours before the procedure. Only a judicial order can remove the requirement.

“This law is incredibly dangerous,” said UIS student Hannah Baity. “Not every young person has a relationship with their guardian that allows them to disclose that information.” She called on the General Assembly to trust young people to know who they can talk to.

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