Chicago NOW’s President, Gina Rozman-Wendle, MC-ed a press conference organized by Chicago for Abortion Rights on September 27. CFAR specifically picked this date, the day the Supreme Court kicked off its fall term, to rally the troops for an upcoming march in defense of abortion access that will take place on October 2 at Daley Plaza. The speakers at the conference represented a wide coalition of reproductive rights activists who delivered the message “No Abortion Bans: Not Now, Not Ever.” Below is the text of Gina’s opening statement that kicked off the press conference.
Good afternoon, everyone. I am Gina Rozman-Wendle, President of the Chicago Chapter of the National Organization for Women, and representative of Chicago for Abortion Rights. My pronouns are she/her. Thank you all so much for coming today.
I am proud to represent Chicago NOW, an organization that has been fighting alongside members of this coalition since 1967 to make abortion safe and legal. But as glad as I am to see this amazing coalition here today, I honestly wish we weren’t here right now. I am angry that we are facing the concrete possibility that, in the immediate future, birthing people could have fewer reproductive rights than we did when I was born thirty-five years ago.
We are here today, on the first day of the Supreme Court’s new term, to firmly tell the court to uphold Roe v. Wade. Extreme factions of this country are attacking our basic rights: the right to control our bodies, our right to vote, to make a living, and to have equal access to health care. These are rights we all supposedly have, but, based on color, sex, age, and socioeconomic status, often can’t exercise in reality. Extremists march with signs that say “my body, my choice” when it comes to Covid vaccine mandates, but take no issue with laws that dictate our choice whether or not to bear a child, a choice that Ruth Bader Ginsberg once described as “central to a [person’s] life, to [their] well-being and dignity… When the government controls that decision for [people], they treat us as less than fully adult humans responsible for our own choices.
With every hard-earned civil rights victory, there’s been an immediate response that counters our societal progression to justice. Ever since the Court first decided Roe v. Wade, extremists have chipped away at the right to reproductive autonomy, and the Court has let them do it. The Court has upheld medically unsound, discriminatory laws that are Madison Heights only imposed on abortions, not other medical procedures. Meanwhile, anti-choicers who’ve been plotting against reproductive rights for years have already won a huge victory – anti-abortion judges in all levels of our judiciary, all the way up to the Supreme Court. We’re here today to tell those who think they won – those who seek to push us back into the Dark Ages – WE CANNOT GO BACK. WE WON’T GO BACK.
Today, we demand that the Court respect the views of the overwhelming majority of Americans who support the right to abortion, and the nearly one-quarter of Americans who will have an abortion by age 45. The Supreme Court has already ignored the will of the people by choosing to hear arguments around the super-restrictive Mississippi Gestational Age Act on December 1st, and by refusing to stay the bounty-hunter Texas abortion ban, SB8. These unconstitutional laws don’t just affect citizens of those states – they are extreme attacks on everyone’s health and human rights that especially impact women, people of color, people of low incomes, and other marginalized groups.
If not stopped, these laws will spread. A Florida legislator recently introduced a six-week abortion ban so Florida can join Texas in putting bounties on the head of people exercising their fundamental rights. These radical laws show that anti-abortion zealots will stop at nothing, and will use any disingenuous argument or tactic at their disposal, to forcefully impose their will on others. We have seen this right here in Chicago, supposedly a safe haven for reproductive rights – a blue city in a blue state. But, next to me here, are pictures of physical attacks on Chicago reproductive care clinics that happened just last month. These attacks are part of a long-existing, but recently escalating pattern of harassment and lethal violence against abortion providers and staff in this country.
The Supreme Court has the power to stop giving credence to these abortion bans and the host of medically unsound state laws that have preceded them. This broad coalition of women’s and reproductive rights advocates demands that the Court have the courage to stand up to the violent throngs that seek to force us back to a time where women would die in botched, unsafe abortion procedures. If Roe is overturned and Congress does not do the right thing in passing the Women’s Health Protection Act to make clear that abortion is a fundamental right all across this land, we know that the rich and powerful will publically celebrate – but they will still be able to access abortions in private. The ones who will suffer most are the very young, people of color, and people of limited means. People who are systemically oppressed by the ones in power – their lives are on the line. That’s why, here in Illinois, we must also repeal the dangerous and onerous Parental Notification of Abortion Act. We must respect the bodily autonomy of young people and support their right to make their own decisions about their futures. I encourage you all to contact your federal and state legislators and demand that they support the WHPA and support repealing PNA here in Illinois.
Those who oppose reproductive rights are often the same hateful forces who repeatedly attack the rights of LGBTQ people, the rights of young people, Black and Brown people, immigrants and refugees. If the Supreme Court upholds the draconian Texas and Mississippi laws and others of their like, they will embolden extremist forces of hate to expand their attacks on civil rights beyond fundamental reproductive rights. Already, zealots are out there saying that if we can overturn Roe, we can surely overturn the seminal Court cases that legalized same sex marriage. Only at our collective peril do we ignore the attacks on the right to abortion.
Today’s speakers represent a wide swath of activists, many on the front lines of assuring that abortion access continues in Texas, and everywhere else. We are also proud to have representatives from unions representing thousands across Chicago and Illinois, and students whose futures are on the line. Our hard-earned civil rights come from the hard work of the organized and mobilized people who fought for those rights – people like our speakers here today. The past has showed us that we cannot rely on any one politician or elected body to protect us – not even the Supreme Court, a body that is supposed to be neutral and divorced from politics, but that has become polarized and nakedly political. We must rely on the collective power of the people to hold these institutions to task. Therefore, we ask you to mobilize and join the protests that will be occurring around the nation on Saturday, October 2. Here in Chicago, the united Rally for Reproductive Justice and March to Defend Abortion Access will be at 11:30 am Saturday at Daley Plaza. We urgently encourage everyone to attend and declare in one voice “no abortion bans – not now. Not ever.”