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Update: Here is the latest tonight of what states banned abortion today, Friday, as a result of the decision and what states will likely do the same soon.

Reactions poured in Friday, after the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which had been in effect for almost 50 years. 

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D.-IL.) posting on Instagram as she headed to a protest at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision effectively eliminates the constitutional right for a woman to have an abortion and leaves the legality up to the states. 

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote the majority opinion, which read: “We hold that Roe and Casey [a 1992 case upholding Roe] must be overruled.

“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision. Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. … Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.”

Groups across the country, including the Chicago area, planned to gather and protest. Below are reactions from federal officials, including the president and our Senate and Congressional representatives, as well as state and local leaders.

Local people and officials

Lorie Cohen Rowley, 80: I knew women who had to do back alley abortions. I’m from Indiana, close to Gary, Indiana, and there was a lot of poverty in that area. It was bad. Women died. Babies died. It’s so ridiculous. The whole business is insane.

“But what can I say? I mean, I’m at this point in my life where I’m concerned about my grandchildren. And their future children. I have five granddaughters and this will affect them. And that’s a huge concern to me.

“We’ve allowed church and state to become joined….we are not supposed to have religion come into play. This is very religiously oriented…..it’s not just about abortion…the gay-lesbian community is going to be targeted. It’s going to bring us back 150 years.” 

Ava Coley, 78: “I feel that we’re in big trouble. I think the Black and Brown people, low income women, need to be very concerned because our rights are being taken away from us little by little.

“And the way the courts are set up, there’s nothing we can do about them. But there is something we can do, if we would all band together and vote. I think the only avenue left for us at this point is voting.

“We need to make sure we vote people out that want to control our bodies….the emotional repercussions about what this does are just terrible. And I’m sure it’s going to be a long list. …Unwanted children. Abused children. Domestic violence. I know this sounds really negative, but that’s kind of what I am feeling right now.” 

Delores Holmes, 85: “I guess I’m like every woman in America who should be outraged by it…to think that the Supreme Court has taken away a right, which they have never done before…I mean, it’s just unbelievable to me. And I do remember the – I guess you’d call it the back alley abortions – people dying and people having mishaps because of that. It was a  hard time for women.

“I just don’t understand how women will allow this to happen. If they don’t come out to vote now, then you know, you’re getting what you deserve. Because things have to change. I’m just speechless….you begin to think, not only in terms of what it means for abortion, but think how it might affect everything else because of it.

“I mean, I can’t even believe this man [U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas], that he would have the nerve to talk about reconsidering other rights….the right to have any kind of birth control. The right to love who you want to love regardless of what their gender is. The right of same sex marriages. … I don’t know what is wrong with America. This is absolutely crazy.”

Rada Yovovich and Tom Pasker (Photo by Matt Simonette)

Rada Yovovich, board member of Evanston Pride: “I can certainly speak to my perspective. Many of my values are shared by the leadership team at Evanston Pride. I very sadly would not say that this decision is shocking. …

“These are decisions that affect entire families, entire communities.

“They disproportionately impact folks in lower socioeconomic statuses, right? It’s not just some small, distant population. …The wealthy will continue to have access to health care in a lot of ways. And, you know, the fact that Clarence Thomas’s statement, went so far as to say that gay rights and contraception rights should be reconsidered. … Yes, we are understandably very scared. And that’s being done during pride month of all times.  

“I think that every single person has a lot more agency than they realize. And I really, really want to challenge, invite, encourage, plead, beg people to really look at what agency, what influence they have, and think about it at different levels, right?”

Teague Sieja, a recent ETHS graduate, said that overturning Roe v. Wade feels fictional, like something out of the Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. [The novel, which was shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize, is about female “handmaids” who are forcibly assigned to produce babies for the ruling class.]

“It just feels so fake like this couldn’t possibly be where we are now in this day and age.”

Sieja said she learned about the decision this morning, while scrolling through Instagram. She first brushed her mother off, saying she felt fine, but the she said, “I just burst into tears. She gave me a hug and was trying to reassure me.”

Yet, Sieja said her mother never had to worry about her reproductive rights as Sieja will. Sieja is going to college this fall in California but some of her friends are moving to southern, conservative states, and have told her they’re afraid.

“I don’t even know if I could move to a state where my rights as a woman aren’t being protected,” said Sieja. “It’s just disgusting to me that we’ve gone back so many steps as a country.”

Rabbi Rachel Weiss of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation said, “This is the climate that we’re living in. It’s really a mirror of the society that we’re living in. It might not be the mirror of Evanston in this moment, but it’s the mirror of our country, and that is terrifying.

“Abortion access is a Jewish value and is supported by Judaism, and we need to do whatever we can to support not only our members who are feeling threatened, but also to recognize that this will disproportionately affect people who are poor. It will disproportionately affect people who do not have a lot of choices in their lives. It will disproportionately affect people in abusive relationships. It will disproportionately affect Black and Brown women and people who can get pregnant, and we have to manage and direct resources to help people who are most vulnerable.”

Rabbi Rachel Weiss Credit: Matt Simonette

“The religious voice in this country, the only one that gets heard, is a conservative voice, a homophobic voice, a misogynistic voice. And there are plenty of other fabulous and liberal, progressive religious voices that are not OK with this.”

In the wake of today’s news, Weiss said, some people may feel despair or want to give up, but organizing, demanding change and supporting those who will be impacted by the repeal of Roe remain more important than ever.

“Part of honoring the people who came before us to give us these opportunities is not stopping,” Weiss said. “We have a teaching in Judaism that says ‘You might not be able to complete the task, and it’s not even upon you to complete, but you’re not free to desist from beginning it.’ And that, I think, gives us hope. We have to keep working.” 

Rev. Dr. Michael Nabors, leader pastor of Second Baptist Church, said that when news of the ruling broke this morning, he wasn’t stunned. He knew it would be a matter of time until the Supreme Court announcement. But, he was still disappointed.

Rev. Dr. Michael C. R. Nabors.

“After 50 years, such an incredible and important piece of judicial process has been overturned. And when we think about 50 years ago, I think of it not so much as an issue related to abortion, as I do about the issue of women having the right to determine what happens to their own bodies… And that is what has been changed by this really, really conservative group of Supreme Court justices is awful. And it’s reprehensible.”

Nabors said he’s worried about the effect this will have on access to medically safe abortions, and the harm it will cause Planned Parenthood, which offers an array of women’s health resources outside of abortion.

“I’m hoping that clergy will be able to gather together in Evanston as we’ve done in the past to protest this movement. And to suggest that, again, it’s not so much a movement of the Supreme Court against the issue of abortion as it is setting that Supreme Court up to be dictators in the personal lives of its citizens, starting with women.”

Nabors noted that Clarence Thomas, the Black lead justice who wrote a concurrent decision to Alito’s argument overturning the protection, in the past has had sexual assault misconduct suits occur in the workplace. “It’s absolutely amazing that somebody that has that kind of history, in terms of being disrespectful towards women… would be the one to sign his name, as the author of this latest piece of this latest debacle.”

Mayor Daniel Biss said: “Today’s news is just as chilling as it is unsurprising.

“This decision is a direct assault on the autonomy and civil liberties of women, with particularly grave consequences for women living in poverty and women of color. In eviscerating the underpinnings of a whole category of legal protections, this also previews continued attacks on LGBT people, the right to utilize contraception, and more.

Mayor Daniel Biss

“I hope that these outrages persuade everyone of the fundamental illegitimacy of this court of political hacks, and that our federal elected officials take immediate action to address this crisis, including but not limited to expanding the court and repealing the filibuster. In Illinois, we are fortunate to have strong pro-choice laws on the books, and to have Governor [J.B.] Pritzker and a pro-choice General Assembly who are already moving to take swift action to codify further abortion rights.

“Evanston stands ready to support any and all measures to provide access to reproductive health care to women from across the country, even more of whom will now tragically be pushed to make use of Illinois’s status as an island of justice surrounded by a dark sea of oppression.”

Evanston Communications Manager Patrick Deignan said in an email: “City staff will not be commenting on this issue,” effectively leaving out the voice of the city’s health department director.

Northwestern student Lunden Mason is a part of the university’s Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educator club, where she fights for reproductive rights. Mason said she sees progress in small, tangible ways every day, but a decision like this is devastating. “In a couple days, I’ll be back in the mindset of ‘there’s so much work to be done,’ and I’ll probably be more energized than ever, but right now, I’m not feeling that at all,” she said. “I’m just really, really sad.”

Mason is home in Ohio for the week, and after hearing the news, she and her mom cried together. “It’s good that she and I were together,” said Mason. “It’s nice to process with another person.”

Mason said some of her family members have had abortions, and she and her mom discussed these women and ways to support them. “The lives they built wouldn’t be possible if they didn’t have reproductive justice,” she said. “It just breaks our heart to think that other women like them wouldn’t have that option.”

While Mason said she is fortunate to live in Illinois, she feels for the women in her conservative Ohio hometown, where access to abortions was difficult even before this decision. “I’m really heartbroken for everyone I know here,” she said. 

State advocates

Lynne Johnson, executive director of Midwest Access Project (MAP), which provides clinical training and education to health care providers in abortion care, contraception, and “all options” pregnancy counseling.

Lynne Johnson

“The top line message that is so important for folks to know is that there is a robust, strong, wide network of abortion providers, abortion funding networks, advocates and clinical training partners who are working hard to make sure that everybody who is seeking an abortion can still get it after today.

“For the Supreme Court to reach this conclusion, the Supreme Court reached back into the 1600s when women were property to determine that there is no national cultural foundation of acceptance of abortion. If people aren’t frightened by that, I don’t know what else is scary.

“Here are two wonderful resources for folks to know about. Abortion care is available and legal in states throughout the country. And the overturning of Roe isn’t changing that.

  • Abortion Finder is for people looking for abortion care. And this is vetted information and data from searches is not saved. When people search on the site, it’s a way for somebody who’s seeking abortion care to find a provider. 
  • The National Network of Abortion Funds is a well-established organization that helps to coordinate people’s travel and accessing resources to get them to a place to provide abortion care. 

State officials

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker called a special emergency session of the state legislature, saying it would “further enshrine our commitment to reproductive health care rights and protections.”

Screenshot of Gov. J.B. Pritzker at a briefing.

At a news conference, the governor said: “Privacy rights are being eviscerated right before our very eyes. … If they can take away your ability to control your own body, there’s not much that stops them from making marriage equality illegal and taking away employment protections for your beliefs or your orientation.

“No ifs, ands, or buts about it: we are headed down a dangerous spiral that will erode our democracy.”

Illinois is considered a haven state, where abortion is legal. The expectation is that this change in the law will bring more women to the state for abortion services. Plus, Illinois is also surrounded by two states, Missouri and Kentucky, that passed “trigger” laws, restricting or prohibiting abortion that would automatically be reinstated (on various timetables) if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

Illinois is also considered a safe habor state where abortion is legal and the laws welcome others from out-of-state to come here. Experts predict an estimated influx of 20,000 people will come to Illinois looking for abortion health care, said Alicia Hurtado, during a news conference today.

“Illinois must be ready for this influx of care – this is no longer a hypothetical, this is a reality,” said Hurtado, Associate Communications Specialist for Chicago Abortion Fund, which supports women from all across the country but focuses on low-income women of color who do not have the funds to obtain abortion services.

State Sen. Mike Simmons (D-Chicago), whose district also includes Evanston, said via Twitter: “Stop legislating our bodies. My statement on the horrific decision by a grievously out-of-touch Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.”

State Sen. Mike Simmons (D-Chicago)

Simmons added in his statement: “I am furious at the colossal injustice that has just been handed down by the nation’s top court. A generation of reproductive rights are being taken away by an oppressive patriarchal, fundamentalist court that is grievously out of touch with the country. The reproductive rights and health care of millions of people – women of all backgrounds, transgender people and nonbinary people – are under attack. Today is a shameful day in our country’s history.”

State Senator Laura Fine (D-Glenview) said via Facebook: “I am angry that the Supreme Court has decided that it is okay to take away a woman’s fundamental right to make decisions about her own body.

State Senator Laura Fine

“Overturning Roe v. Wade will have devastating consequences for women’s physical and mental health. This will not stop abortion, it will just make it unsafe. Here in Illinois, we trust women and have protected a woman’s right to choose.

“Under Illinois law, women still have access to reproductive health care such as abortions. I will continue to fight to uphold a woman’s right to choose and advocate for reproductive rights as a fundamental right for everyone in this country.”

Federal officials

President Joseph Biden, addressing the nation via television, said: “Today, the U.S. Supreme Court took away the right for a woman to choose. … The health and life of women in this nation are now at risk. …

“I believe Roe v. Wade was a correct decision. … It was a decision on a complex matter… a decision with broad national consensus that most Americans of different faiths found acceptable. … Roe v Wade was [originally] a 7-2 decision.

“The court has done what it has never done before to expressly take away a Constitutional right.”

U.S. Sen Tammy Duckworth (D.-IL), wrote on Twitter: “I am outraged and horrified—this outcome is a nightmare that robs women of their right to make their own choices about their healthcare and their bodies, and it paves the way for a nationwide abortion ban that Republicans have been seeking for decades.”

U.S. Sen. Dick Durban (D.-IL.) said on Twitter: “Today’s decision eliminates a federally protected constitutional right that has been the law for nearly half a century. As a result, millions of Americans are waking up in a country where they have fewer rights than their parents and grandparents.”

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin

As the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, Durban set a hearing to look at life after Roe on July 12, the day after the Senate returns from a two-week July 4 recess.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D.-IL.) posted a video on Instagram of her walking and carrying a large pink sign that read: “Protect Safe, Legal Abortion.” She said: “I’m on my way to the Supreme Court with a whole crowd of people that is gathering. Members of Congress and others, men and women alike, who are saying this decision is completely unacceptable. We trust women, we won’t go back.”

Susy Schultz

Susy Schultz is the editor of the Evanston Roundtable. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and is the former president of Public Narrative, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching journalists and...

Adina Keeling

Adina Keeling is a photojournalist and reporter, covering city news, sustainability, schools, and art. She also investigates mental health systems and environmental injustices in Evanston, and puts together...

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

Anne Bodine

Anne Bodine, Community News Editor, has been a part of The Evanston RoundTable since 2008 as a reporter covering businesses and institutions; arts and entertainment; and health and wellness. More recently,...

Debbie-Marie Brown

Debbie-Marie Brown is a reporter and Racial Justice Fellow at the Evanston RoundTable. They cover the local reparations initiative, Black life in Evanston, and the 5th ward. Contact Debbie-Marie at dmb@evanstonroundtable.com...

Wendi Kromash

Wendi Kromash is curious about everything and will write about anything. She tends to focus on one-on-one interviews with community leaders, recaps and reviews of cultural events, feature stories about...

Alex Harrison

Alex Harrison joins the RoundTable for the summer in between his undergraduate and graduate studies at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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  1. Supreme Court Judge Thomas, how are you going to vote if and when the high court decides against mixed race marriage ??

  2. Are there any organized programs in Evanston to protest the horrific roe vs wade ruling?