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Chicagoans march in counter-protest at anti-choice rally
by Matt Simonette
2020-01-13

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Dozens of Chicagoans, among them members of the LGBT community, turned out in icy rain the afternoon of Jan. 11 to stand in counter-protest against the anti-abortion March for Life rally held in downtown Chicago.

The counter-protestors—organized by a local coalition that included Soundoff, the Gay Liberation Network, the Socialist Feminist Working Group of the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, Illinois Single Payer Coalition, Physicians for a National Health Program and the Chicago for Abortion Rights—gathered at the corner of Dearborn and Washington Streets about an hour before the anti-choice rally began.

As the demonstrators marched, activists and other community members spoke about their commitment to fighting for affordable, on-demand abortions for all.

Speaker Linda Jennings of National Nurses United, the U.S.'s largest organization of registered nurses, described her mother's near-deadly unsuccessful abortion attempt, which was nearly a decade before Roe v. Wade.

"All I remember is blood everywhere," Jennings recalled. "That moment has been seared in my mind. My mom almost died at the age of 37. … This was before oral contraceptives, IUD's, school sexual information or drug-store pregnancy tests. It was only condoms, the rhythm method, abstinence or self-inflicted abortions in the bathtub."

Bridget Doherty Trebing of Chicago Teachers Union's ( CTU ) Women's Rights Committee added, "It is critical that we have control over our own bodies, and can make our own decisions about when, if and how to parent. We understand that abortion is normal. One in four women have had an abortion. We all know and love someone who had had an abortion."

A group of anti-abortion protestors, all wearing ski masks, stood facing the activists and mocked the various chants as the demonstration progressed. When counter-protestors chanted, "Back alleys no more—abortion rights for rich and poor," for example, the anti-abortion folks countered with, "Back alleys no more—don't be a whore."

Andy Thayer of Gay Liberation Network underscored that reproductive rights activists will have to be ever-vigilant and active in 2020, since the U.S. Supreme Court—now including President Donald Trump's two arch-conservative appointees—will in March hear arguments on a Louisiana case limiting curtailing hospital privileges for abortion providers.

"Movements have been why we've made social change ,both in this country and worldwide," Thayer said. "That is why we are out here on a cold, miserable day, in Chicago. We know that when the Supreme Court ratified the demands of the women's movement, it was the women's movement that was the driving force behind that decision in the early '70s. …[But it was also] truly an intersectional moment that won us that right."

The coalition that planned the Jan. 11 demonstration are in the early stages of planning a March 4 action, coinciding with when the Supreme Court hears arguments for the Louisiana case. A planning meeting will take place Saturday, Feb. 1 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Lozano branch of Chicago Public Library, 1805 S. Loomis St. For more information, see facebook.com/chi4abortionrights or contact chi4abortionrights@gmail.com .


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