On Aug. 26, just under two dozen activists demonstrated outside Chicago City Hall to demand their alderpersons pass the Bodily Autonomy Sanctuary City Ordinance immediately. A month after the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court, Mayor Lori Lightfoot signed an executive order preventing Chicago police from coordinating with other states that have banned or restricted abortion rights. Lightfoot’s executive order additionally designated $500,000 to be utilized to support abortion seekers in covering the cost of their lodging, transportation and follow-up care. This executive order could be rescinded under subsequent administrations.
The Bodily Autonomy Sanctuary City Ordinance would extend and codify the current executive order, ensuring that the Chicago Police Department and other agencies cannot aid other jurisdictions in carrying out the arrest or criminalization of individuals from other states with restrictive laws who travel to Chicago seeking abortions, gender affirming care or other bodily autonomy. It would also extend additional resources to the city’s 311 service, ensuring that individuals can call the service and receive multilingual information about agencies providing abortions, gender affirming care or other services supporting body autonomy.
Organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation and Reproductive Transparency Now, the demonstration was a multinational event with young and elderly activists present in support of the ordinance. PSL organizer Summer Pappachen introduced and facilitated the demonstration, telling activists and onlookers, “Today is Women’s Equality Day. Women’s Equality Day means fighting for abortion rights and access, but it also means the right to health care in general. It means the right to trans health care, because the same politicians who are threatening abortion are the same politicians threatening LGBT kids throughout our schools.” As Pappachen explained the connections of abortion rights to other forms of reproductive justice, the road filled with bike riders participating in a mass event who rang their bells, raised their fists and cheered in support.
Lisa Battisfore of Reproductive Transparency Now explained, “Even though we live in a pro-choice state, we have to be aware that we have strong anti-abortion forces in this state and across the country that provide harmful medical information. They will be working harder than ever to intercept people seeking abortion care and that is why we have to stand up and resist.” A flyer Battisfore distributed provided information on how to identify crisis pregnancy centers, which prey on individuals seeking abortions in an attempt to manipulate them into keeping the fetus. There are currently 97 CPCs in Illinois. RTN and PSL have been demonstrating outside these facilities in Chicago for several months.
PSL member alithia zamantakis elaborated on the connections between the attacks on abortion and trans rights: “Attacks on abortion and attacks on trans youth and trans girls stem from the same colonial, patriarchal violence that the ruling class has inflicted on women and gender diverse people for centuries. The same states banning trans health care are attacking abortion, and legislators are already using Texas’ SB8 as a template to develop legislation.”
Throughout the demonstration, hundreds of women and men riding by on tour buses screamed out in support and joined the crowd in chanting, “When women’s rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”
The final speaker, Ana Soley, an organizer with PSL and a writer for the Marxist-feminist magazine, Breaking the Chains, listed restrictions and eliminations of abortion in states surrounding Illinois. She continued on to speak of her own experience of having an abortion. “Right now, I owe more for an abortion that I had in 2019 than the cost of my student loans. To the so-called leaders of this city, why isn’t there urgency today? We don’t have time to wait when they are funding the police over people’s needs in this city. We don’t have time to wait when they are forcing us to carry unwanted pregnancies.”
As Soley and other speakers described the lack of action on the part of Democrats and the onslaught of attacks on the part of Republicans, each speaker also ended with a call for disciplined organizing and a recognition of the thousands taking to the streets across the country in support of abortion.
At the end of the action, demonstrators wrote down why abortion rights are needed now on a sign, took a picture with it, and shared it on social media to spotlight the struggle among their networks. Individuals wrote such statements as, “Oppressed people deserve the right to self determination,” and “We deserve the right to make decisions that impact our health, life and happiness.” The Chicago branch of the PSL and Reproductive Transparency Now both plan to have ongoing demonstrations against attacks on abortion and in support of the Bodily Autonomy Sanctuary City Ordinance.
Feature photo: Demonstrators rally outside Chicago City Hall to demand the passage of the Bodily Autonomy Sanctuary City Ordinance. Liberation photo