More than 250 people gathered Saturday on the Skokie Village Green to support abortion rights in a rally co-sponsored by the Democratic Party of Evanston.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) inspired the diverse pro-choice crowd by summarizing why so many were gathered. “Roe v. Wade wasn’t the beginning of women having abortions. Roe was the end of women dying from abortions,” Schakowsky said.
The one-hour rally, also organized by Niles Township Democrats United and Niles Township Democratic Committeeperson Josina Morita, included messages of inspiration and anger in the wake of a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that revealed that a majority of justices favor abandoning the 1973 Roe precedent that legalized abortion nationwide.
Abortion rights are codified in the laws of Illinois and some other states, but 13 states have so-called trigger bans that would outlaw the procedure immediately if Roe is overturned, and more states are considered likely to add prohibitions or restrictions if court rulings permit.
Speakers included Democratic state Senators Laura Fine and Ram Villivalam and three young women from local high schools.
Multigenerational families held signs and cheered the speakers as kids played in the grass and climbed on the modern steel sculpture in the plaza area just a few yards from the Skokie Public Library. Many were holding signs provided by organizers but there were plenty of handmade ones as well.
Shabad Kaur Khalsa held a sign of a rattlesnake draped in the form of a uterus with the caption, “Don’t tread on me,” a riff on the more familiar flag designed by Christopher Gadsen in 1775 for the Continental Marines during the American Revolution.
Eileen Hogan Heineman held up a sign with a coat hanger and the words, “We’re NOT going back to this.” Her feelings were raw as she spoke to a reporter.
“I am so tired of women’s rights being trampled. About women being disrespected. I’m tired of how we don’t think about what we’re doing to women of color and poor women when we remove basic health rights. We have to keep telling people that because that’s what is happening here,” Heineman said. “This isn’t about me. I’m way past the age when I would need an abortion. This is about all the women who can’t afford it, women who never thought they’d have to make this life-changing decision, and we’re letting them make this life-changing decision if we go back.”
A great-grandmother in a wheelchair, accompanied by her friends and family, held a sign saying, “I can’t believe I’m marching for this AGAIN!!!”
Veronica Arreola, a trailblazer for women in STEM fields and a well-published advocate for women’s rights, addressed the crowd. As the director of Latin@s Gaining Access to Networks for Advancement in Science at the University of Iliniois Chicago, her focus is making sure UIC provides opportunities for Latinx pursuing careers in the sciences.
Arreola shared statistics about the impact an unwanted pregnancy would have for poor women, many of whom are Black or brown. “Before we mandate pregnancy we need to mandate universal health care and paid family leave,” she told the crowd.
One of the teen speakers, Mosi Imasogie, a student at Niles North High School, ended her speech with a succinct summary. “I want to say that we are not arguing for or against abortion, we are arguing for an individual’s right to choose what they do with their body,” she said.
Schakowsky urged the crowd to knock on doors and make sure everyone they know goes to the polls to vote.
“What they’re doing now with the Supreme Court is just the beginning,” Schakowsky said. “They would like to take away this right nationally. And it’s not just about abortion rights, about LGBTQ rights. It is about everyone. They want to undo the values that we have fought so hard for. So this election is absolutely about saving lives. We have got to get to the polls. We have to get everyone out to the polls. We can win this battle! When we fight, we win!”