SPRINGFIELD — Sign-waving, chanting crowds rallied in Illinois Saturday to protect abortion rights just weeks after Texas restrictions all but banned the procedure in that state.
Thousands of people gathered in Daley Plaza in Chicago chanting, “Our body, our choice,” before marching through the Loop. In Springfield, several hundred people gathered on the south side of the Old State Capitol plaza, just two of 650 similar actions around the country, according to Planned Parenthood of Illinois.
The Women’s March has become a recurring event since the first one was staged in Washington, D.C., just after the inauguration of former President Donald Trump, a staunch abortion opponent. But it took on a new urgency Saturday, with the Texas law scheduled to wend its way through the court system and clinics outside of Texas filling up with appointments.
Just two day after the Texas law took effect, Planned Parenthood saw the first women from Texas arriving in Illinois for the procedure, said Brigid Leahy, senior director or public policy.
“They are trying to figure out paying for airfare or gas or a train ticket, they may need hotel and meals,” Leahy said.
“They have to figure out time off of work, and they have to figure out child care. This can be a real struggle.”
Prominent among the Springfield crowd were the Illinois Handmaids, a group of women in red robes and white bonnets reminiscent of the automatons of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” carrying signs that said, “Mind Your Own Uterus” and “Mother By Choice.”
Although abortion is more accessible in Democratic-controlled Illinois than in many other places, both rallies in Chicago and the capital called for repeal of the state’s parental notification law, requiring an adult family member to be told about an abortion planned by a woman under 18 at least 48 hours in advance.
In Chicago, before Crystal Rosales spoke, several women walked by the microphone and said, “I’ve had an abortion, and I’m here to support Crystal,” reported the Chicago Tribune. Then, Rosales explained that she “made the hardest decision of my life” when she learned of her pregnancy in 2012.
She said she dealt with guilt, shame and sadness, but finally concluded, “Abortion is health care. Abortion is essential. And abortion is freedom.”
Jack Paciolla of Springfield attended the Capital rally.
“We should be past this point where, they don’t have a choice over their bodies?” Paciolla said. “We shouldn’t be able to ban it. It (the abortion issue) has been decided, there’s precedent, why are we still dealing with this? It’s ridiculous.”
Jelani J.J. Day was reported missing Wednesday by his family and an Illinois State University faculty member.
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