Illinois reproductive-rights organizations protest bans before SCOTUS session

By Lily Bohlke, Public News Service
Photo: Gayatri Malhotra/Unsplash

Reproductive-rights advocates took to the streets across Illinois and the U.S. over the weekend to protest the new Texas law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, the nation's most restrictive abortion law. It is one of 90 anti-abortion bills that have been passed by state legislatures.

Brigid Leahy, senior director of public policy for Planned Parenthood Illinois, said they already are seeing Texas patients fleeing the ban and traveling long distances to get care.

"It's over 1,000 miles to get to Illinois, but people are doing that," Leahy reported. "And there are people who cannot travel. The barriers are just too much, and they are being forced to continue pregnancies that they do not want to continue."

The events -- 600 total nationwide -- came days before today's start of the U.S. Supreme Court session, during which judges plan to hear a case concerning a 15-week Mississippi abortion law, which, if upheld, could overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Leahy noted when former President Donald Trump took office and promised to appoint Supreme Court justices who would be amenable to overturning Roe v. Wade, Illinois lawmakers began working on bills to protect the right to abortion at the state level, such as the Reproductive Health Act of 2019.

She pointed out many states are taking similar steps, but many others are now going the other way, including many Midwestern states.

"It was really important to recognize the full range of those rights and put them in our state law so that when Roe v Wade falls, we are protected in Illinois, not just for the people in Illinois, but the people in the states surrounding us," Leahy contended.

Polls show nearly 7 in 10 Americans support the decision establishing a woman's right to an abortion, and more than 900 state lawmakers from 45 states recently signed a letter urging the Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade in their decision on the Mississippi law.

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