On May 20, over 2,000 people gathered in Federal Plaza in Chicago to denounce recent reactionary policies that some states have passed restricting women’s reproductive rights. The emergency rally was organized by several groups including Indivisible Chicago, ACLU of Illinois, Midwest Access Coalition and the Women’s March Illinois in response to Alabama’s law gravely restricting abortions. Specifically, this law seeks to ban all abortions after eight weeks of gestation even if the mother was raped. The multi-gender, multinational crowd consisted of people of all ages and many families with children.

Speakers highlighted that this push to restrict abortion is not about saving lives but is meant to attack and oppress women. One speaker courageously described to the crowd that she had been pregnant, but that an amniocentesis revealed that the fetus’ chances of survival were very low. The family chose ultimately chose to end the pregnancy. Other speakers detailed the horrors associated with unsafe abortions, described how birth control empowers women and can serve medical purposes including treating endometriosis and explained that a ban on abortions will disproportionately affect poor and oppressed women. One speaker pointed out that prior to legalized abortions, Chicago hospitals had wards specifically dedicated to complications of unsafe abortions. With this in mind, speakers criticized Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker and other lawmakers for inaction regarding HB2495, which is supposed serve as a reproductive health act.

As described by a speaker, this is especially important as Illinois, particularly Chicago, serves many Midwestern women seeking abortions. Growing up in Indiana as a teenager, this writer had friends who needed abortions. One particular friend had asked me to drive her to Chicago for an appointment as there was not an abortion clinic available in our town. Ultimately she decided a self-induced abortion would be easiest, however, she suffered complications due to this.

These stories are merely a small glimpse at the horrors of unsafe abortions. The event also showed what women and all people relying on abortion services can achieve when they have access to birth control and abortions, even with all the restrictions and obstacles still in place. Energized by the rally, outraged protesters later marched in the streets of downtown Chicago chanting “We won’t go back!” and “Fight! Fight! Fight for abortion rights!”